KU plans to spend $49 million on renovation of Allen Fieldhouse, new documents show
photo by: Kansas Athletics
A project to improve historic Allen Fieldhouse is now expected to cost $49 million, a nearly $30 million increase over what the University of Kansas originally planned to spend on the upgrades.
KU officials last week announced the planned renovations — including new hospitality areas, video board and premium seating — but did not provide a price tag for the project as part of the announcement
But KU recently filed required documents with the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s university system and must approve major building projects on campus. The new documents are seeking Regents approval for $49.3 million worth of improvements at Allen Fieldhouse. That’s up from a $20 million estimate KU made in 2018, when it began floating the idea of improving the fieldhouse, which is home to the men’s and women’s basketball programs.
“The change in project budget was the result of additional scope of work and the escalation of the cost of mechanical equipment and electrical equipment along with overall construction inflation that has dramatically affected the overall project cost,” a summary document provided to the Regents said.
In addition to the more visible improvements at the fieldhouse, such as concessions and fan areas, the project includes a significant amount of behind-the-scenes work on the heating, cooling and electrical systems in the building that dates back to 1955.
The documents provided to the Regents state a portion of the project will be funded through private gifts from donors. However, the document also states that “Kansas Athletics funds” will be used to pay for the project. The document doesn’t specify how much money from the coffers of KU will be required, nor does it state whether Kansas Athletics is expected to issue new debt to help pay for the renovations.
The project comes at the same time that KU is planning to spend more than $300 million to improve David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, which is home to the football team. That development is being billed as a “gateway project” for KU and likely will include the construction of convention, restaurant, retail, health care and other nonathletic space in an effort to make the northern end of the KU campus more attractive to visitors and potential students.
Like the Allen Fieldhouse project, KU has said it expects private gifts to pay for part of the project, but also has held out the possibility that Kansas Athletics will have to use some of its own funds or issue debt. With the stadium project, KU also has received a $50 million economic development grant from the state of Kansas. KU has committed that it won’t use tuition dollars or state operating funds to pay for any of the gateway project.
Both projects are coming as KU’s athletic conference, the Big 12 Conference, is set to undergo big changes. The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma are scheduled to leave the conference at the beginning of the 2024 football season. Four schools — Houston, Cincinnati, BYU and Central Florida — are joining the league next season. The conference has signed a new six-year television deal with ESPN and Fox, which is expected to pay each league school more than $30 million a year for its TV rights. That’s more than the conference has been generating in most years, but it is expected to be significantly less than schools in the rival Big Ten and SEC will make as both of those conferences expand.
KU leaders have said the school needs to improve its athletic facilities, particularly the football stadium, to help cement its place in a Power Five conference like the Big 12. If KU were to fall out of a Power Five conference, television rights deals for those smaller conferences generally have produced tens of millions of dollars less per year for their schools.
The Regents will meet on Wednesday in Topeka to consider approving the latest details of the Allen Fieldhouse project. The Regents’ agenda also includes another item of note for KU. The university is asking Regents approval to name a facility at KU. The information included in the board’s agenda does not state the facility nor the proposed name. However, this is the process that universities use when they want to name a building, stadium or other facility after a donor. Historically, the Regents have declined to make that information public prior to the public meeting.
As part of its release last week, KU said the Allen Fieldhouse project would not be possible without “the inspirational gifts from one of our very best Jayhawk families.” KU, however, did not name the family.
KU expects to begin work on the fieldhouse project this spring, and it will be conducted in two phases to avoid interruptions to the 2023-2024 basketball season. The entire project is expected to be completed by September 2024.