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KU eyes major renovation of football stadium

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- University of Kansas Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger has revived plans for a major renovation of the Jayhawks' football stadium.

Zenger acknowledges that a Memorial Stadium project would require a massive fundraising effort and the school's four consecutive losing football seasons create an obstacle, The Kansas City Star ( reported.

No budget or timetable for the renovation has been set. But Zenger says that last month, Kansas began the design process for an eventual renovation. Officials met with Kansas City-based architectural firm HNTB, which would oversee the design of the project.

The early work on the project comes as construction continues on a new $39 million complex in west Lawrence for soccer, softball and track and field. The complex is expected to host the Kansas Relays in the spring, and its opening would allow Kansas to remove the track around the football field at Memorial Stadium, a possible first step in a larger project.

"It's near and dear to my heart to take this stadium and make it more modern," Zenger said. "And to bring it into the present day, without damaging the memories of what's been here in the past."

The stadium was built in 1920 and has been expanded multiple times. Permanent lights were installed in 1997, and a renovation occurred the following year.

Money is perhaps the biggest barrier to another project. In 2009, the last time KU attempted a project at Memorial Stadium, then-Athletic Director Lew Perkins unveiled plans for the Gridiron Club, a $34 million luxury box expansion that would have risen above the east side of the stadium. The plan was scrapped when the program fell on hard times and the money didn't materialize.

"No idea at this point is too small or too big," Zenger said. "They will be engaging our stakeholders over the next few months, and they'll come back to us with their ideas. The reality of it is, it will be an expensive project. And it will be a massive fundraising campaign."

Zenger in May extended his contract through June 2018, with a salary increase from $450,000 to $600,000 and extended his contract through June 30, 2018. According to university officials, only $200,000 of Zenger's salary comes from the state, while $400,000 comes from private funds.

KU basketball coach Bill Self said, "I think Sheahon definitely helped pump life back into everything."