MANHATTAN, Kan. - Groundbreaking ceremonies will soon take place on KSU's $75 million West Stadium Center, which former Wildcat player and current fund raiser Laird Veatch says is a must for Kansas State to keep pace in the Big 12.

They're called "I" stories, and Laird Veatch certainly has one as he travels as Kansas State's associate athletics director for capital support.

Currently the mission statement for some of those travels is encouraging donations for Kansas State's current $75 million West Stadium Center Campaign.

Veatch was a linebacker for the Wildcats from 1990 through 1994. Like few others, he personally experienced the "before" and the "after."

"I was there before Mr. (Dave) Wagner was in a position to give us that turf in 1993," said Veatch. "We had that Wildcat in the middle of the field where they just kept painting over it, and over it, with exterior house paint." Laughing, he added, "I still have the scars on my arm from where I would land on it and slide."

And then came the new AstroTurf in 1993, and if not before, it was then that Veatch learned and appreciated the difference quality facilities can make.

"Absolutely it makes a difference," said Veatch as to whether facilities make a difference to a 19-year-old football player, or 21-year-old baseball player. "It's about pride and appreciation. As a player, seeing quality facilities fills you with pride. It's your place, and more than anything it makes you want to continue to work every day to get better and earn the respect from the fans."

With the understanding that most K-State fans do not travel to other Big 12 venues, Veatch admits that there is a "varied level of understanding" on how far the Wildcat football facility has slipped in comparisons with Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, not to mention the bigger names of Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.

And the fact that future Big 12 member Texas Christian University is currently in the midst of a $115 million facelift to its football stadium.

"Some don't understand, but they've all been willing to listen," said Veatch. "When people see the pictures of what some of our rivals are doing, and how they are spending well over $100 million on their football facility, our people recognized that it's time. The numbers are amazing, but it is what it is."

Veatch said that K-State was a school being looked at by others in terms of facilities 20 years ago, but that was 20 years ago. Now, he says concerning the Phase 2 West Stadium Center, "It's time to take another step forward. Once we do our presentation, I haven't run into anyone who says that it's not time to do something, and they're responding with true commitments.

"The response has been fantastic," said Veatch. "We're asking a lot from our people, and they've been outstanding. Not only are they willing to write a check, but they see the benefit beyond what it does for them. They see the additional concession stands and more restrooms that will benefit all of our fans."

And, there is the benefit to the student athletes with the dining hall.

"It sounds like a small thing for someone who hasn't been in the position of a student-athlete, but monitoring your nutrition is most important no matter what sport you're in," said Veatch. "We went to Oklahoma State and their training table had different stations for the variety of needs that a particular athlete might need. For some, it's a very lean-type diet, for others there are other nutritional needs."

Plus, there's the convenience and time factor of an extra hour each evening of leaving the Vanier Complex after practice, driving to the on-campus Derby Cafeteria and looking for parking, and then returning to Vanier for study table.

"Something like that sounds trivial, but it's an extra hour, which pushes back your recovery from practice, your study time and when you go to sleep," said Veatch. "It's all tied together. You're looking for a competitive edge and what you eat has as much to do how you perform physically as most anything else."

The dining hall to the north end of the West Stadium Center will be open to the general student body, and perhaps general public, but exact details have not been decided.

Veatch says he doesn't like to say it, but part of today's world of intercollegiate athletics is keeping up with your rivals.

"This is such a competitive industry. You hear Frank (Martin) talk about how hard it is to win, and it really is hard to win. It's much harder than 20 years ago when I was playing," said Veatch. "When you have a coach like coach (Bill) Snyder, and all of our coaches, you want to equip them with what they need to be successful, and a large part of that is in the area of facilities."

Veatch then mentioned the conference realignment discussions of the last two years and what might have been had K-State been left out of the Big 12 Conference landscape.

"That was avoided through the leadership of President (Kirk) Schulz and John (Currie, AD)," said Veatch. "There would have been a trickle down not only to football, but the Manhattan community and the state. This project will make a statement if the realignment conversations ever come up again. This project is going to give us something visual that says we belong."

"We don't have to beat Texas and Oklahoma from a facility standpoint, but we can't allow our facilities to limit us and keep us from being competitive," said Veatch.

"If we do this, we need to do it right. This project will be significant to football, to our university and to our community for a long time to come."

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