MANHATTAN, Kan. – All it took to pry Kansas State coach Bill Snyder away from his team for a couple of hours on game day were a $90 million renovation to the football stadium and a bronze statue of him.
Even then, Snyder joked that if the Wildcats struggled in their opener against North Dakota State on Friday night, it would be because of the dedication ceremony earlier in the day.
"It's all going to be on my shoulders," he said with a smile.
The school cut the ribbon a massive renovation to Bill Snyder Family Stadium under a scorching sun that pushed the heat index into triple digits. Yet the 73-year-old coach looked unflappable even when the 8-foot likeness of him in front of the west side of the stadium was unveiled.
It marked the end of a whirlwind project that finished just last week, and was ready to welcome the first fans of the season through its irons gates when the sun started to set.
"This is the K-State of the future," school President Kirk Schulz said.
The renovation began in 2012 and continued right through last football season, when Kansas State won the Big 12 title. It was supposed to cost $75 million, but materials costs and some alterations to the original plan pushed the price tag to about $90 million.
The 250,000 square-foot facility, which is being funded through private pledges, features new premium seating, improved media and broadcast facilities, the addition of the K-State Athletics Hall of Honor and other amenities. It also doubled the amount of field lighting to meet NCAA national standards for high-definition TV broadcasts, creating a better picture for fans at home.
Also on hand for the dedication were Gov. Sam Brownback and U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran. Bengals cornerback Terence Newman, who played for the Wildcats, and Kansas State alum and Emmy Award winner Eric Stonestreet of "Modern Family" also taped messages.
In fact, Stonestreet taped a humorous welcome message with several cast members of the hit show that was run for the several thousand fans who braved the heat to watch the hour-long ceremony.
Roberts called the renovated facility, which design firm AECOM modeled after limestone buildings on the main campus, "not just a football stadium. It's a gateway to campus."
"Everybody who comes here comes for a reason," he said, "and they come to gather with friends and have a tremendous experience, and this is going to make it outstanding."
After all the platitudes came the unveiling of Snyder's statue, which welcomes fans through the main gates on the west side. It depicts Snyder on the sideline during a game, his left hand on his hip and his right hand clutching a clipboard. Bronze hand prints of family members circle the base of the statue on top of a 4-foot tall granite pedestal.
It was designed by Kansas City sculptor Spencer Schubert, and hadn't been seen by Snyder until a black drape was pulled off — though Schubert did have some help from Snyder's wife, Sharon.
"I'm reminded of a graduation speech that Winston Churchill gave at Oxford University," Snyder said. "He got up, took his cigar out of his mouth, he said, 'Never give up.' He waited a few moments, he said, 'Never give up.' He put his cigar back in his mouth and walked off the stage. I gave very serious thought knowing what this sun feels like coming up here and saying, 'Thank you. Thank you.'
"There are so many things that have happened in the last two-and-a half decades that have culminated with this wonderful facility," he said, "it would take forever to go through all of them."