In September, I joined Kansas Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger to announce a fundraising project focused on football. This project addresses the reality that a competitive football program is important to our university and that our outdated facilities hamper our ability to compete in the Big 12 Conference. Today I would like to update you on this project.
First, it has become clear there is strong interest in this project among KU supporters. As you know, the project launched with a $50 million gift from David Booth and has since garnered additional financial support from donors across the country. These donors recognize that facilities are crucial to our membership in a Power Five conference, which in turn is crucial to our broader aspirations as a major public research university.
The first phase of this project is the construction of a new indoor practice facility. This facility will cost an estimated $26 million and be funded through private donations. We are exploring multiple sites near Memorial Stadium, the most likely being a location on the west side of the stadium. As with any project, we are evaluating factors related to aesthetics, environmental impact, campus heritage, parking and accessibility, and we will work with the City of Lawrence to ensure our plans benefit the surrounding community. We will present our most current plans to the Kansas Board of Regents this week and will communicate with you throughout the process.
As I said in my September message, a competitive football program benefits the entire university and our academic mission. We need to remain a strong member of the Big 12, and football is key to that. In recent years, we have transformed our campuses with a focus on academic and student-centered facilities – including the Health Education Building, Capitol Federal Hall, Self and Oswald Halls, the Spencer Art Museum, Swarthout Recital Hall, LEEP2, and the Central District – while adding more than 735 scholarships and fellowships and 50 professorships thanks to private giving. This transformation of our academic facilities will continue, recognizing that football facilities are part of the transformation.
I want to reiterate my confidence in Sheahon and Coach David Beaty. Nobody denies the challenges we are having on the field, but I maintain my belief that Sheahon and Coach Beaty have the right long-term vision and are doing things the right way. Our focus now is empowering them with the tools they need to fulfill their vision.
Finally, it is worth reflecting on how fortunate we are to have donors who believe in our aspirations. The fact that we can pursue a project like this with the support of private philanthropy is humbling, and it is a testament to our supporters’ belief in the work we do as a public research university. That most fundamentally revolves around the work you do – and for that, you have my sincere thanks.