While a full-scale renovation of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium remains months or even years away and is still in the planning stages, big changes are happening to the venue anyway.
For one, Kansas fans are starting to fill it up.
KU officials told the Journal-World on Wednesday that nearly 12,000 new single-game tickets had been sold for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against Duke since KU’s win at Houston last weekend.
Beyond that, administrators and KU facilities staff members are bracing to have the stadium at or near its capacity of 47,233 fans, and the fans themselves had blown up social media with campaigns begging Jayhawk fans everywhere to “Pack The Booth.”
“We’re obviously really excited about all of this,” Jason Booker, KU’s deputy athletic director for external affairs and revenue generation told the Journal-World on Wednesday. “Coach Leipold and his staff and players obviously are doing the work on the field and our team has been working hard off the field and behind the scenes to make sure everyone who comes on Saturday has a great experience.”
In addition to the stadium suddenly being packed, Kansas Athletics has invested some time, effort and money into giving a few of the concepts for the future of the stadium a trial run in the newly revamped Touchdown Club in the south end zone.
What used to be a luxury seating area with limited space and oversized recliners, now features four different options for fans to tap into a variety of experiences.
The Touchdown Club, which is larger, features tiered seating and is a complete overhaul of what was there before, includes four options available at different price points.
The Wave the Wheat patio appeals to a younger crowd and is more of a standing-room-only experience, with easy access to food and drink. One season ticket for that area costs $900.
The club level includes regular seats with access to all-you-can-eat-and-drink concessions. One season ticket for that area costs $1,500.
There’s also the drink rail seating section, which features a stool and a spot at a bar-top and a front-row view of the action, with easy access to food and drink. One season ticket for the drink rail seats is $1,300.
Then there’s the Loge Seating, which features a several four-top tables that include their own television monitors for access to replays and other games and all-inclusive concessions. The price for four season tickets for that section is $6,600.
Further down, there are seven cabanas — all of which are sold out for 2022 — that seat up to 20 people and most closely resemble what the original Touchdown Club seating used to look like.
Booker said the Touchdown Club seats are sold out for Saturday and that only an extremely limited number of single tickets remain for the rest of the season.
While generating revenue was a big part of investing in redoing the area, Booker said it was equally as important to increase access to the space so KU fans who were interested could try out and get a firsthand look at the luxury seating options that might one day be available on a larger scale at a renovated Memorial Stadium.
“We had a decision of do we just keep rolling with what we’ve always done or do we go in and invest in it,” Booker told the Journal-World. “The only way we were going to generate more revenue out of the space was to get more people in there, and our main objective was to give more people the chance to experience the premium opportunity.”
Many of the options now available were featured in the recent stadium survey that Kansas Athletics sent out, and the idea of incorporating them all into the new-look Touchdown Club is to get real feedback about what fans like and do not like so they can play for the future.
All of the options were up and running for KU’s home opener against Tennessee Tech and Booker said the feedback from patrons was “really, really positive.”
“I think most people felt like it was a really plussed-up experience,” he said.
The public criticism of what KU has done with the Touchdown Club is that it’s merely a case of putting lipstick on a pig and Booker said KU’s administrators understand that point of view. He also made sure to point out that what’s there today represents a glimpse into what KU sees for its football future.
“We’re continuing to try to find ways to improve the stadium experience for our fans as we’re contemplating a renovated stadium,” he said. “We could sit idle and say, ‘Hey, we’re just going to kind of keep getting through it.’ But we’re trying to provide better amenities and better opportunities for people right now. It’s a temporary solution. We understand that. But it’s better than doing nothing.”