Board of Regents approve near $20 million option for indoor practice facility

Bids submitted to the Washburn Board of Reagents for the indoor training facility.

Charles Rankin

The Washburn Board of Regents held a special meeting March 28 and approved a final design for the indoor practice facility, estimated to cost $19.9 million.

The three options given to the board included first, a facility with a 100-yard field and 200-meter banked track; second, a facility with a 110-yard field and 200-meter banked track; or third, a facility with a 100-yard field and 300-meter unbanked track.

After being given the options by Schwerdt Design Group and DLR Group, the board approved the second option by a unanimous vote. This design will make Washburn the first Division II school to have a banked 200-meter indoor track, according to

This decision comes after the board approved an initial design during the board’s December meeting. The initial design closely resembled the third option. According to one of the design team members, the additional options came about after meeting with various parties, including the coaches and others from the athletic department, and discussing the needs of those using the facility. President Farley recommended the board approve the third option.

The decision also came after various people spoke on the issue. Track and field coach Cameron Babb discussed the advantages of having a 200-meter indoor banked track, which would allow Washburn to host meets.

“If we had one, we would be able to host all kinds of [events],” Babb said. “We would be able to invite Division II teams, NAIA teams, [junior college] teams, and they would all want to come here.”

Babb also said that having such a track would help with the recruitment of student athletes to Washburn.

“Just imagine bringing a high school kid in to something like that and giving them the opportunity to have that as their home base, their home facility,” Babb said.

Marshall Meek, president of Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation, gave an update on the fundraising campaign for the practice facility. He said that of the $5 million that was planned to come from the foundation, just under $4.2 million has been pledged.

Brett Oetting, the president of Visit Topeka, spoke about the economic impact of having a facility like this in Topeka, and how a 200-meter track puts Washburn at an advantage in hosting events over places like Pittsburg State and Northwest Missouri State, places where 300-meter, unbanked tracks are in place or currently in development.

“The 300-meter track would in fact bring people here just as it does to Pittsburg,” Oetting said. “However, we would have to fight with them in probably some sort of rotation.”

Oetting went on to say that having a 200-meter banked track would speed up the process of getting events to host. He said that, with the banked track option, Topeka would more than likely win bids to host NAIA, junior college and other events as soon as 2020, with economic impacts to the Topeka area of up to $5.9 million per event.

Not everyone seemed happy with the board’s decision.

WSGA President-elect Zac Surritt said that he felt the people who presented to the board at the meeting didn’t represent every side to the issue.

“We heard from Visit Topeka, we heard from the track team and we heard from the architects,” Surrit said. “All of those [people] benefit from the most expensive option. We didn’t hear from students, we didn’t hear from the law school, we didn’t hear from a lot different areas that had different opinions.”

He said that this meeting, as a special meeting called by Farley, seemed to be called quickly and almost without warning.

“If a WSGA senator hadn’t pointed out to the group that there was a new meeting, I wouldn’t have been informed [of it],” Surritt said. “I was under the impression that there was a meeting in April.”

Surritt said he believes the board understands groups like student government, the law school and the faculty senate, all of whom submitted letters to the board at the December meeting voicing concerns over the planning of the practice facility. He believes that the board made the decision without taking those concerns into account.

“I hate to say it is what it is now, but the board voted,” Surritt said. “We kind of have to deal with the cards we’ve been handed.”

Surritt said that this is now a conversation of moving forward with the decision. He said that his administration plans to do everything it can to inform students of the actions of the board.

“In my administration, we’re going to post the agendas of the board [and] the minutes of the board,” Surritt said.

Surritt said that WSGA is committed to serving the students’ interests, and that working with the board is a part of that.

“We will continue to have conversations as students and as student representatives,” Surritt said. “Even the chair of the board said [at the meeting], ‘without students, we wouldn’t need a board, we wouldn’t need a school,’ yet they make decisions against the will of the students, at least the students that have come to us.”

Along with approving the proposal, the board approved adding $1 million to one of the sources of funding for the athletic facility, donor commitments, raising that figure from $5 million to $6 million. According to estimates, the selected proposal will leave the university with $1.9 million in reserves that will in turn be used to partially fund the construction of a new law building. The added $1 million from donor commitments brings this number closer to $3 million.