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K-State stadium expansion complete

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP)

The last limestone brick is in place. The final yard of concrete poured. The whirlwind work on a $75 million renovation to Bill Snyder Family Stadium is complete.

All that's left is for fans to starting spinning the turnstiles.

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Project supervisor AECOM announced Thursday that the renovation of the west side of the 45-year-old stadium in Manhattan, Kan., finished on schedule. Construction had to be squeezed into eight months in order to be ready for the Wildcats' opener Aug. 30 against North Dakota State.

The renovation resulted in 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.

''We want the game-day experience at K-State to be special,'' associate athletics director Scott Garrett said. ''Our goal is for fans to walk away from our stadium — regardless of whether the team won or lost and which team they are supporting — and feel that their return on investment was well beyond the price of their ticket and that it was a very special experience.''

The massive stadium project, which was announced in January 2012 and funded entirely through private donations, is designed to go a long way toward improving the fan experience.

Where once a double-wide trailer served as the press box, and later a simple structure to house the media and fans, there is now a 250,000 square-foot facility. It includes new suites and loge seating, retail locations and expansive concession and restroom facilities that also can be utilized by fans sitting in the preexisting bowl portion of the stadium.

''To see the facilities and what's happened here, it's truly remarkable,'' Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said after a recent tour of the construction. ''I think a lot of people have had their hands on it, but I don't think anybody has done as much as Coach Snyder.''

Indeed, the stadium had undergone a dramatic transformation since Snyder arrived on campus prior to the 1989 season. There were high school stadiums that were nicer than KSU Stadium, as it was known back then, and the digs made it difficult for the program to attract recruits.

That should no longer be such a big problem.

''The vibrancy, the robustness that you have here, it's a prosperous feeling,'' Bowlsby said, ''a feeling that comes with winning.''

The imposing structure clad in limestone stretches from one end zone to the other, opposite the upper level added to the east side of the stadium after the 1998 season. It gives off the feeling that the stadium is much larger, even though the listed capacity remains 50,000.

''We've sold a record number of season tickets,'' said Kansas State athletic director John Currie, who has spearheaded the project. ''Weather-pending, we'll have the most fans ever to come to the stadium this season, about 400,000, which would set the all-time attendance record.''

The opener against North Dakota State is sold out, including the standing-room only tickets, which should make for a festive atmosphere when the renovation is dedicated.

The project is the centerpiece of a master plan that was launched in August 2011. The next phase, which is already under development, will include a new strength and conditioning center, recruiting lounge and other aesthetic improvements.

''The stadium renovation is the largest construction project undertaken in the university's history,'' said Jon Niemuth, sports design director for AECOM, the architect of record for the project. ''We knew it would require innovative and careful planning to deliver the new stadium to K-State fans with no interruption to the football schedule.''

They managed to do it with a week to spare.

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