It’s the start of a new year and a new semester. However, the days are numbered for the current Spratt Stadium.
During winter break, the architect Ellison-Auxier was selected for the new stadium by the Missouri Western Board of Governors to provide design elements for the project because of their experience with similar projects, particularly Northwest Missouri State University’s stadium.
The next big step in this process is giving bids for general contractors before demolition can begin.
Why demolish Spratt?
The ultimate decision to renovate Spratt Stadium came after a report from Clark Huesemann, which stated that, “The exterior walls show extensive water infiltration that with the effects of freeze-thaw cycles, are damaging the brick.”
It goes on to say that “There is no elevator for access. The facility is lacking in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and today’s life safety and building codes.”
They also pointed out problems with the windows, doors and hand railings along with no consistent heating and cooling throughout the whole building.
Western President Robert Vardabedian stated that, “It all started with the master planning process. We knew that we had some areas on campus that needed attention, in particular Spratt Stadium and Potter Hall just from eyeballing it in terms of code violations and accessibility violations and so forth with reference to Spratt Stadium. The master planner’s report came in basically saying it had major problems and needed to be demolished because of lots of code violations.”
In addition, he stated that the university should go through with this renovation now.
“When a reputable architectural firm and master planner comes out as strongly as they did terms as it’s an ‘unsalvageable’ building, I don’t think we had much choice regarding liability factors,” Vartabedian said.
He also explained that there are three levels at which these renovations will benefit the campus.
“First and foremost, it will be helpful to meeting code and accessibility issues that were problematic. Secondly it will be a nice enhancement to the fan experience by being close to the playing field, having a video board and having luxury suites,” Vartabedian said. “Third, and finally, unlike just about any other facility on our campus, this will generate a fairly significant revenue stream through the advertising that we can do on the video board as well as the revenue we can generate from the suites.”
What will it cost?
The estimated cost for Spratt Stadium of $7.8 million is still the amount that is being discussed by university administrators.
Who is paying for this?
Western Director of Athletics Kurt McGuffin described how and where this money will come from.
“It will all be private money; we’re not using any student fee money,” McGuffin said. “The Max Experience money is still allocated to other things.”
In November, Vartabedian requested that the Student Government Association put their plans to renovate Blum Union on hold and instead use the money to assist the bonding of Spratt Stadium in the amount of approximately $500,000 from the Student Success Act.
However, it has been decided that there will not be any money from the Student Success Act to be used on this project and that the money is coming from a different source.
Are the Chiefs involved?
One question is whether this renovation has anything to do with the ongoing negotiations with the Kansas City Chiefs.
“It certainly will not hurt to have a much better facility for them to use while they’re here,” Vartabedian said. “The Chiefs are very good negotiators and, to be quite honest, haven’t shown their hand on how happy they would be to have a renovated Spratt Stadium. It’s just part of how business people negotiate. I really don’t know an honest answer to that question other than that it certainly can’t hurt our relationship with them because of everything they would have access to all kinds of interesting things.”
What about graduation?
Another question for final semester students is where spring commencement be held.
“The most likely scenario is for us to go back for this May to the use of the Looney Complex and have multiple commencements,” Vartabedian said.
Something that all students will be able to experience is the opportunity to apply for the production side of the new video board that will be added to the stadium.
Director of Athletic Communications Ryan Menley will be leading up the operation of the video board and explained the benefits that will come from this kind of work.
“I think that’s the best part about the whole thing is you’re talking hands-on experience for those who want that kind of experience,” Menley said. “It will be obviously the scoreboard production and then we will also do a broadcast too. We will have a five or six camera shoot that will be webcast as well. You’ve got two options if you’re a student: to get in a production side with graphics or more of a broadcast television side of it.”
Menley added that any student is welcome to apply for the positions to work for the video board once they’re available.
“If you’re into video at all, if you’re into sports at all, we’d love to essentially talk to anybody who’s interested in it, because I think the more involved you are in it, the better off you are, and you’re more of a sponge for learning,” Menley said. “We’ll post those positions in the summer.”
Schedule of construction
Timeframe-wise, there are not set dates for work to actually begin or even a completion date. “It’s probably unrealistic to expect us to have completed it by the beginning of the fall semester,” Vartabedian said. “Mostly dependent upon the weather, we are hopeful that, within a month after the start of the fall semester next year, that the majority of the work will at least be a functional facility.”
In case the stadium is not completely ready for next season, there are backup plans being discussed.
“We’re estimating that it won’t be and we have some contingencies that if we have to host one or two of the games we’ll have portable press boxes and things to try to get us through one or two games so hopefully October for the actual building, but everything else should be where we can play on it,” McGuffin said.
Work will soon begin on the stadium, “March, April, May, June, July, August as hard and as fast as we can. It’s going to be a pretty intense process,” McGuffin said. “All of that area over there, including the practice fields and the stadium, will be off limits for a long time.”
Just the beginning
This is just the first step in the master plan that is going to be ongoing for years to come. For Spratt Stadium, Vartabedian discussed that this may be the best time to go through with a renovation because of where interest rates are and that the debt could be paid off early. “I think it’s going to be a good thing, and I think it’s an opportune time to do this,” Vartabedian said.