The new stadium at Kansas Wesleyan University will not be game-ready in time to begin the season. But the school says it will be finished in time for homecoming.
According to KWU, the new Graves Family Sports Complex at Kansas Wesleyan University will be in full swing on Monday, August 10 as two-a-day practices begin for a record-number fall student-athletes. However, delays in the construction process will push back the first games on Bissell Field.
The construction process has encountered the delays due to unforeseen existing conditions at the stadium site, plus heavy rains this summer made the area too muddy for concrete work. The construction team discovered an unmarked city pipe in the path of the planned sewage pipe from the stadium to the city sewer line. Now the university must install a large lift station, which will take several weeks that were not factored into the original timeline. With the delay, the university has decided to change the scheduled events around the opening of the stadium to allow fans to plan in advance to attend the dedication event.
The dedication of the new Gene Bissell Field, honoring legendary head coach Gene Bissell, will take place on Saturday, October 3 as part of the Homecoming festivities, prior to the 6 p.m. game between the Coyotes and longtime rival McPherson Bulldogs. An alternative date will be selected for a stadium dedication when former governor Bill Graves and his family are able to participate.
At the current pace of construction, the university anticipates using the facility for home competition beginning with the women’s soccer match on Wednesday, September 16. Sacred Heart is scheduled to play at home on Friday, September 18. The first college football game in the facility would be on Saturday, September 19, the KCAC opener against Sterling. The university plans to meet with City of Salina officials later this month to confirm the timeline.
“While it is unfortunate that we will not to be in the facility for the first game of the season,” said President Dr. Matt Thompson, “we knew it was a tight timeline that would have had to work perfectly. It’s not unusual for construction projects to run into unexpected delays.”
The student-athletes participating in fall sports arrive Saturday, and the teams will practice in the stadium while construction continues.
“It has been exciting to watch the transformation of the new stadium throughout the summer, and the energy and enthusiasm in the community is terrific. Everyone is looking forward to attending an event in the stadium this fall,” said Dr. Thompson.
Officials considered playing the early fall games on campus by halting construction in between competitions; however, there were too many home contests that would have caused the craftsmen to start and stop, causing an even longer delay in completing the project. Setting the field dedication for October 3 will ensure that fans can make plans to attend, Dr. Thompson added.
The Saturday, Sept. 5 football game against Midland will be played at 6 p.m. at Salina Stadium, the home site for the Coyotes since the 2006 season. The university will also relocate the soccer matches scheduled for August 31, September 4, 6, 7, and 12.
The adjustments will also impact the Sacred Heart football game against Southeast of Saline scheduled for Friday, Sept. 4.