KU’s stadium is full of construction material now, but all is on schedule to have commencement there next month

photo by: Mike Yoder/Journal-World

University of Kansas graduates sit on the field at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Sunday, May 14, 2023, during commencement ceremonies for the class of 2023.

Today, it would not be hard to find actual boards on the field of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium as it undergoes a $448 million renovation that has demolished the entire west side of the facility.

But leaders of that project on Wednesday assured community members that mortar boards will be on the field next month as scheduled. In other words, despite how the stadium looks now, KU is confident commencement ceremonies will happen as scheduled on May 12 at the stadium, 11th and Mississippi streets.

“The field is going to be cleared,” said John Wilkins, a principal and architect with Multistudio, the Lawrence-based firm that is one of two chief design firms for the project.

photo by: Shawn Valverde

Renovation work is underway at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.

The field currently is a prime storage area for all sorts of construction materials as crews have completed demolition work of the west and north stands of the stadium, and have now started the process of rebuilding the facility.

“They are going to dress it up as best as they can so it doesn’t look and feel so much like a construction site,” said Wilkins, although he noted there will be some barriers in place for safety purposes.

Wilkins also said a couple of the large cranes at the construction site will remain. But he said they also might be used to hang some large banners congratulating the graduates.

“I know they are trying to make it unique and special for those students,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins provided an update on Wednesday as he spoke at the annual meeting of Downtown Lawrence Inc., whose members often rely on large graduation weekend crowds to fuel their businesses.

Graduates again are expected to walk down the Hill and into the stadium for the formal ceremony. Parents, friends, family and other spectators will be seated in the east stands of the stadium, which largely have been untouched by the construction work.

Having just one side of the stadium available for spectator seating has created some concerns of crowding. On its 2024 Commencement website, KU is “encouraging” graduates to limit their number of spectators to six or fewer people. KU also will be offering livestream viewing stations inside the Kansas Union and the Jayhawk Welcome Center on the Lawrence campus.

Commencement ceremonies, which are set for 10:30 a.m. on May 12, will be one of the last chances for the public to get inside the stadium for a while. KU will play its home football games at Children’s Mercy Park and Arrowhead Stadium in the Kansas City metro due to the construction underway at KU’s stadium.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, however, has said that having graduates walk down the Hill into the stadium is a core tradition, and he alerted construction crews early in the process that it was “nonnegotiable” that commencement ceremonies occur in the stadium.

Wilkins on Wednesday noted that many of the graduates in this year’s class were the same students four years ago who had their high school graduation ceremonies cancelled or greatly altered by the pandemic. He knows that is on everyone’s minds too.

“It is important to do it, but also important to roll out the red carpet as best as you can and make it memorable and make it unique,” Wilkins said.

The stadium is not scheduled to reopen until August 2025 for that year’s football season, though presumably next year’s commencement ceremony will be held at the stadium in May 2025. Wilkins said the stadium project is on schedule.

photo by: Shawn Valverde

Renovation work is underway at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.


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