Renovations to Cessna Stadium could bring a ‘premier soccer facility’


Manny De Los Santos/ The Sunflower

Cessna Stadium is 76 years old. It currently hosts Wichita State track and field events, the Kansas State High School Track and Field meet and other school related functions.

Renovations to Cessna Stadium could help the athletic department create its first ever women’s soccer program by creating a regulation sized soccer field.

The Kansas Board of Regents approved for the university to move forward with the planning, fundraising and re-design of Cessna Stadium.  

“When you start to take the whole big picture into account. You are looking at adding women’s sports, you kind of follow yourself into soccer pretty quickly,” Director of Athletics Saal said. That would be great for campus life and student engagement. 

The plan includes three phases. During Phase one, there will be the potential to create a regulation sized soccer field. The stadium would seat 10,000 people. 

Phase 1A is set to begin on Aug. 23 and would cost $11.8 million. It would include a berm grass seating area that would seat 2,390. There will also be a ticket pavilion and a plaza. 

Phase 1B is anticipated to start June 2024 The 400m eight lane track at Cessna would be reconfigured to fit the correct measurements for a collegiate soccer field. Saal said the measurements are about a 75 by 120 yard field.  

The demolition of Cessna Stadium could begin as early as June 2025 during Phase 2A. Phase 2B will consist of a plaza between Charles Koch Arena and Cessna. It would allow room for fan amenities.  

Locker rooms, offices and team rooms for a future women’s soccer team would also be a part of phase 2B. The total cost of phase two is approximately $35.9 million. 

KBOR has not released when phase three is set to begin.

However, Saal said phase three would create a building on the west side of the stadium that would have a majority of the seating by the finish line of the track field.

“We wanna clear a pathway should we decide as an institution at some point down the road to add women’s soccer as a fall sport,” Saal said.

Wichita is home to Stryker Soccer Complex which has eleven full size soccer turf fields with lights. In July 2023, the complex will host the US Youth Soccer National Presidents cup. On a regular basis, it houses competitive youth teams and has hosted NJCAA soccer championships.

“I would tell you that Wichita first and foremost is a very strong community from a soccer perspective both boys and girls youth soccer,” Saal said. 

Saal said adding women’s soccer would add to the Title IX perspective of college athletics. 

According to the NCAA, Title IX provides participation opportunities for women and men that are substantially proportionate to their respective rates of enrollment of full-time undergraduate students.

He also said as an athletic department they are obligated to stay within a five percent variance of the gender distribution in the campus student body. 

 “So if it’s 55 percent female and 45 percent male we have to stay within a five percent variance of those numbers,” Saal said. 

After the University of Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston leave for the Big 12 next fall four new teams will be added to the conference. If the plans for a women’s soccer program were to be finalized, the Shockers would be joining a 10-team American Athletic Conference league. 

“Another added benefit to women’s soccer is the ability to compete for commissioners cups,” Saal said

The Commissioner’s Cup is an award that recognizes student-athletes that perform the greatest over the fall, winter, and spring athletic seasons

Saal said that although he is hopeful for a space to be created for women’s soccer, the funds need to be raised and approved for the field to be added to stadium renovations.

 “It doesn’t mean the money is there,” Saal said.