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Official Review by Cory Sims, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Bill Snyder Family Stadium, home to the Kansas State Wildcats, is quickly becoming one of the most opulent pigskin palaces on the plains. Fresh off a Big 12 Championship and Fiesta Bowl appearance in the 2012 season, the Wildcats began the 2013 campaign in a fresh home stadium. It is newly renovated with improved restrooms and concessions, a KSU hall of fame, club level seating and dining, an updated press facility, and a great “Tailgating Terrace” on the second level that serves beer and food to special ticket holders. The updated facade on the west side of the stadium looks great; new limestone walls house the updated facilities and improve the aesthetics of the venue. The most noteworthy addition has to be the towering bronze statue of the stadium’s namesake, the Wizard of the Little Apple, Bill Snyder.
Formerly KSU Stadium, Bill Snyder Family Stadium hosted its first game in 1968 with a 35,000 person capacity. Several renovations have increased that to 50,000, making it tied for eighth in the ten-team Big 12. The major renovations prior to the 2013 season are just the second in a five phase master plan that is expected to be completed in 2025. The Wildcats have not sat idly while the rest of college football teams race to build the biggest and fanciest facilities. Future phases of their plan could include a new strength gym, retail and condo space, seating additions, sound and video upgrades, a recruiting lounge; basically everything but a literal football factory that spits out more gritty underdog players to continue the Snyder legacy of teams that surprise the nation’s collective football conscience. Kansas State never seems to get the attention it deserves, but with a winning team, cool new stadium upgrades, and a great fan base it will be hard for this program to fly under the radar much longer.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
As with any college football game, the best eats will be found at one of thousands of tailgates in the sprawling parking lots surrounding the stadium. But, if you're new in town or don't want to get to Manhattan too early for a 11:00 kickoff, the stadium has upgraded concession stands to wet your whistle and fill your belly. Hot dogs, pretzels, nachos and the traditional stadium grub are all available at traditional stadium prices. But, in the south end zone are several local food stands serving unique fare like frozen yogurt, purple kettle corn, and barbecued turkey legs. Concession stands are abundant meaning lines are short, so if nothing else grab a soda in a souvenir cup to soothe your throat after shouting "First Down!" with the rest of the fans.
Manhattan can finger Wildcat football as the reason many of its hotels, restaurants and shops exist, so it's no surprise that it goes nuts on game days. A purple parade of cars points the way from Interstate 70 to Snyder's stadium, rolling past Poyntz Avenue in downtown's Aggieville, past campus and the castle-like Memorial Stadium, the previous home of the Wildcats. Pulling up to the stadium, watch out for fans in camouflage K-State gear attempting to hide in plain sight. This is Western Kansas, after all. Tailgaters sway in the parking lot like wheat fields in the prairie wind, but there's no sloppy drunkenness here. The real fans know the reason we're all here is for what happens inside the stadium, not outside the gates.
The stadium is not quite on campus, which makes for more tailgating room, but less college culture. Fraternity houses, which can always be counted on to contribute some debauchery, are much too far from the stadium for people to enjoy their antics. Instead, the area surrounding Bill Snyder Family Stadium is a lot like the rest of Kansas; expansive and flat. Fortunately, the next three phases of the master plan promise to bring vast improvements to the neighborhood immediately surrounding the venue.
A neighborhood that needs no improvements is Aggieville, the downtown district diagonally across from the main campus gates. This place has everything you'd expect in a college town: local boutiques, fun restaurants, numerous bars, and plenty of people milling around. If coming to town for a morning game, make a stop at Varsity Donuts and bring a dozen to your tailgate. Their unique and various treats are sure to please everyone.
KSU fans suffered decades of terrible teams prior to Snyder, so they really treasure the squads of the last 20-plus years. They show up hours before the game to get ready in the parking lots. They all wear purple, they know the players, they know the game traditions, and they are LOUD. Bill Snyder Family Stadium gets as loud as its namesake is modest. It's as loud as the Flint Hills are scenic. Bill Snyder Family Stadium is so loud that rumor has it Bill Snyder once almost cracked a smile after a particularly exciting play led to deafening cheers from the bleachers. A cynical person might say that the noise is overcompensation for the Wildcats being constantly ignored by the major college football media. A typical Wildcat fan doesn't care what a cynical person might say. In Manhattan, the slogan is "No big city. No ego. No media. Just smash mouth football."
The only bad part of attending a game is the commute. Manhattan sits about five miles off of I-70, and on game days, the side highway from the interstate to town is clogged with traffic. Although lots surround the stadium, most of them are reserved, so expect to pay a bundle for parking within a few blocks of the stadium, or wear comfortable shoes for a long walk from the car. Renovated bathrooms and concessions mean short lines, but the line to get out of town after the game will make you forget how much you enjoyed the stadium experience. Bill Snyder Highway (really, K-177 is named after the coach) could use the same expansion that the stadium has gotten.
Tickets for almost every KSU game are reasonable. Only games against Oklahoma and Texas will cost you more than $50. Part of that is because many of the Big 12 rivals have fallen on hard times, but it's also because Kansas State values their humility and they don't want to price out the average fan. Parking isn't cheap ($20-$30), but it's less than almost anywhere in the SEC, and many other Big 12 schools. The gameday experience is above average, and if you spend a couple hours in Aggieville after the game instead of hitting the highway east, the traffic won't even bother you.
The west side of the stadium is a beautiful sight on its own, but if you climb to the highest levels of the stands and look out beyond the field and north end zone, you get a fantastic view of the typical Kansas landscape. A grain elevator stands guard over a golden pasture, and in the near distance hills of flint rock meet baby blue skies chock full of puffy clouds. Anyone who naively says Kansas isn't scenic or beautiful doesn't know what they're missing.
Also, love it or hate it, the Wabash Cannonball is a unique tradition. The band plays the song, and nearly everyone in the stands bobs back and forth to the rhythm of the music. It's a hypnotic scene, and the tempo of the song makes it almost cartoonish. But, the fans really get into it, and I've never seen anything else like it. This is just one more thing that makes K-Staters different, and they could care less what anyone else thinks of it.
Member Review by JackWinter
Serving as a cultural, social, and athletic mecca for the football-crazed residents of Manhattan, Kansas, Bill Snyder Family Stadium is the raucous home of Kansas State Wildcats football.
The stadium was rededicated in honor of legendary coach Bill Snyder before he roamed the sidelines for what was supposed to be his final game in 2005. When asked his opinion of renaming the venue in his honor, Snyder famously and modestly said, "If you are going to do it, name it after the people I care about most."
With KSU struggling in the seasons immediately following his departure, Snyder resumed his old position in 2009, becoming the only head man in the FBS to coach in a stadium named in his honor.
Since Snyder took the reigns of Wildcat football in 1989, KSU has ascended near the top of the college football mountain, consistently ranking among the nation's top programs on a season to season basis. Given the daunting task of traveling to K-State country and playing in front of 50,000 rabid and purple-clad fans at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the program's success is hardly surprising and poised to last a long time.
Member Review by paul on Oct 27, 2011
I love Manhattan- it is a great college town, with wonderful fans, and the famous Aggieville. The basketball experience certainly outshines the football experience, but a trip to Manhattan, KS is a good idea regardless...
Member Review by JB on Oct 21, 2012
I discuss with review.
Food is greatly improved and getting better!!
Options are improved, greater variety, service has improved......I know WANT to eat at the staduim. Pass outs need to be eliminated to help improve the fan experience.
Member Review by nami on Jan 09, 2013
EMAW! BTW, K-State is a Pepsi school not a Coke as it has been mentioned. The Pepsi contract began in the 1990s.
Member Review by Lbbsport on Oct 20, 2013
Though not one of the largest, the times I have been here the fans are very passionate and into every play. The city which they play is very small but has a definite college town feel.
Watching a Bill Snyder team is always a good return on investment.
Member Review by AirAssaultDawg on Jul 22, 2014
Extremely fun atmosphere and intense fan base. It would be nice if the concession stands had lids for cups, but that's my only complaint. Not a KSU fan but Im looking forward to seeing another game in Manhattan.
Member Review by Aaron S. Terry on Nov 04, 2015
K State has an amazing atmosphere and great fans (as well as a phenomenal facility that is getting even better). The only thing lacking is that it is in the middle of nowhere, so getting there is a little bit of a pain. But well worth it, the crowd is fabulous.
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1641 Anderson Ave
Manhattan, KS 66502