Girod says KU will need to raise at least $150M from private donors for football stadium, gateway project

photo by: Matt Tait

The view of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium from the top of Campanile hill in July 2020.

The University of Kansas hopes to raise at least $150 million from donors to fund its football stadium renovation and gateway project near 11th and Mississippi streets.

“We believe to take full advantage of what could be out there, we need to raise $150 million at a minimum,” KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said in a brief interview with the Journal-World on Wednesday.

KU officials last month filed paperwork with the Kansas Board of Regents to spend up to $335 million on the gateway project, which would include major renovations to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium and would add non-football components to the stadium area. KU has said that part of the project likely will include a 600-person conference and event center that would be built into the north bowl area of the stadium, and also could include space for a health care provider, restaurant and other amenities. The stadium itself will receive a host of new amenities related to seating, suites, concessions and more.

While KU leaders have previously talked about a total price tag for the project, they have not said much about how much they would need to raise from donors. On Wednesday, Girod said KU was indeed hoping to use economic development money set aside for higher education in Gov. Laura Kelly’s budget. That program requires universities to raise $3 in private money for every dollar of public economic development money a project receives. With that math, KU would be hoping to get $50 million in state economic development money for the project.

The math also serves as a reminder of how large of a project the gateway initiative is for the university. Even with $50 million in state funds and $150 million in donor funds, the project would still need more than $100 million in additional funding for completion.

Girod on Wednesday didn’t address how KU may seek to fill that gap, but previously KU leaders have said they expect to raise some revenue from private partners that want to locate in the gateway project. For example, a health care provider or restaurant who would have space in the gateway project would pay the university for that space. Girod also has said Kansas Athletics may have to take on some debt to fund some of the football-oriented improvements. Leaders thus far haven’t said how much that debt may be, but have said KU would not use any tuition or general state higher education dollars to pay for the project.

Part of that equation will depend on how much KU can raise in private funds. Girod on Wednesday said $150 million really should be a minimum mark for fundraising. He said KU is officially in the early phases of fundraising for the project, but didn’t have an update on how much money has been raised thus far.

“We are still waiting for a couple of studies to come back that will allow us to fine-tune the project and allow us to say more definitively what will actually be in the project,” Girod said. “We are laying the groundwork with our donor base by giving them sort of the high-level view. We will then hone that down and really do a full-court press.”

Girod said KU does have the resources available to start on a critical early part of the project in the first quarter of 2023. He said KU has committed itself to completing renovations of the Anderson Family Football complex. That’s the building on the southwest corner of the stadium that is the home base for KU football coaches, staff and student athletes.

Girod said work will begin in early 2023 to make a host of improvements within the existing footprint of the building.

“We need to be ready for when the team shows up in August,” Girod said.

That project needs to move quickly because the most recent contract extension with KU football coach Lance Leipold — announced last month — gives Leipold the ability to opt out of his contract if KU has not made “meaningful and substantial” progress on renovating the Anderson complex by July 1. The contract also gives Leipold a chance to terminate the contract if KU hasn’t made substantial progress on stadium renovations by Dec. 15, 2023.

Girod said the perception that KU structured Leipold’s contract in a way that makes it clear that KU has an extra incentive to actually complete the long-talked-about football stadium renovations is largely accurate.

“Yes we did, yes we did,” Girod said.

Girod said he expects to reveal far more detailed plans to the public in early 2023, once KU receives an economic feasibility report that will provide advice on what types of other businesses and amenities could be located at the site and how large they could be.

“I think by late January or early February, we will have a much, much more cohesive idea of what we are going to do and be able to take that to the city, the county, the neighborhood associations and others,” Girod said.


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