Regents approve Wichita State proposal to tear down four-decade site of state high school track and field championships; smaller facility proposed
One of the nation’s largest outdoor track and field meet won’t be happening next month at Wichita’s Cessna Stadium due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s also uncertain how many more of the state track meets will take place at the stadium.
The tradition-rich Kansas State High School Activities Association Track and Field Championships bring athletes from across the state to one venue because all six high school classes compete in their respective events at the stadium on the Wichita State University campus.
WSU officials, though, plan to tear down stadium, which dates back to the 1940s, and build a smaller multi-purpose stadium.
Lawrence Journal-World editor Chad Lawhorn reported Wednesday that the Kansas Board of Regents approved a WSU request to tear down Cessna Stadium.
Wichita State officials requested the demolition because they say the stadium is need of major repairs. They also cited the stadium’s lack of use for events, in part because WSU hasn’t fielded a football team since the mid-1980s. There has been talk in various circles about resurrecting the program, but has never really gained serious traction.
Whether the KSHSAA all-classes state meet will return to the stadium depends on Wichita State’s timeline for demolition.
The university won’t start tearing down the 24,000-seat stadium until WSU has the estimated $1.4 million needed to cover demolition costs for the 30,000-seat stadium.
Construction on Veterans Field started as a WPA project in the 1940s. In 1969, construction started for expansion of the facility and it became Cessna Stadium. The 31,500-seat facility at the time was renovated in 1996.
It’s not completely certain what Wichita State’s plan means for the future of the all-classes meet, which attracts some 3,500 boys and girls student-athletes Memorial Day Weekend each year in Classes 6A through 1A..
Wichita’s history in hosting state meets actually dates back to 1935. Wichita hosted seven state meets from 1935-46, with the others taking place in Emporia. Wichita and Manhattan had a rotation schedule of hosting the state meet from 1947-66. Wichita started hosting all classe in 1970 and continued to do so with the exception of 1978 when Wichita hosted 5A and 2A, Salina 4A, Augusta 3A and Salina 1A.
KSHSAA added 6A in 1979 and Cessna Stadium has hosted all six classes ever since.
In total, Wichita has hosted at least one class’ state meet since 1970.
WSU dedicated Cessna Stadium as its track and field facility in 2002 after completion of a seven-month, $1.3 million project that added an eighth lane and resurfacing of the track, and updated infield event layout and building locker rooms for the Shocker men's and women's track and field teams.
The stadium also has been the site for various city high school football games and regular-season high school track meets. It even was home to Kapaun Mount Carmel football for several years. Kapaun is a private Catholic high school in Wichita. A Pittsburg State game was played there as well.
The proposed smaller stadium would host not only Shocker track and field events, but could potentially be the site for high school and club events for soccer, lacrosse and track and field, university officials said.
Tonganoxie High competed in the regular-season track meet, the KT Woodman Outdoor Classic, the last few years.