Improvements to equine facilities at K-State could be on the horizon

Kansas is home to a number of horses, major horse events and other activities surrounding the animal. Many farms and ranches still use equines for daily tasks. Each year the economic impact of the equine industry continues to broaden.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture recently hosted its annual Kansas Governor’s Summit on Agricultural Growth and as part of the summit, virtual sessions were held prior to the event for beef, feed and forage, specialty crop, food processing, pork, and equine sectors.

During the equine session, Kansas Horse Council’s Justine Staten led a discussion with Kansas State University Foundation Senior Director of Development-Agriculture Kerry Wefald, K-State’s Department of Animal Sciences Head Michael Day and Justin Janssen, vice president of the Livestock and Meat Industry Council at K-State. The group discussed the proposed K-State Animal Sciences Gateway, which is expected to include an ag competition complex and improvements to the equine facilities at K-State.

Day said the possibility of these improvements at the university is one that really ties into both the equine program and animal sciences.

“It’s a project where we sit down with a large group of stakeholders, university people and figured out conceptually what was needed,” he said. “What was needed to make the equine program excellent, what was needed to help make the animal sciences programs, K-State, etcetera, excellent.”

Development of the concepts began in recent years and has expanded to work with the K-State Foundation, architects, and many others. Day said the concept is one that will be 100% philanthropically funded, with the concept coming in two parts—a multi-species arena and a modernized horse unit.

“The function of these collectively together to support teaching, research, Extension, youth programs in equine and livestock sciences going across campus starting in animal sciences and then going across K-State,” Day said.

He hopes to have more interaction with the College of Veterinary Medicine at the current horse unit as well.

“So it would extend their teaching programs, and a recruitment showcase for K-State. This would be again at both the horse unit and at the arena site to recruit students as they come to Manhattan for various functions,” he said. “And then, of course, economic development.”

Day said if this comes to fruition, the facility could bring in livestock shows and equine shows that could help develop the animal sciences program even more.

One reason to keep the horse unit separate from the competition area is one of biosecurity. A band of broodmares is housed at the horse unit and many horses come in and out for breeding services.

“We’re able to keep those animals in that location where we do a majority of our teaching,” he said.

The multi-species arena could be located in what Day described as the gateway area, closer to the K-State campus.

“It’s a logical place to have that facility to help promote our programs,” he said.

When it comes to recruiting students to K-State, having the rodeo facilities, the Stanley Stout Center, the purebred beef center and other facilities close by, including another facility in the area makes sense.

“And this whole area is what we defined as the Animal Sciences Gateway,” he said. “It’s a gateway to the north where all the rest of the facilities are—the dairy, the swine, the feed yards, all those other facilities. This is our gateway area for the campus, for the animals and the horse unit.”

Day hopes this will be a replacement for some of the facilities that have been around since the 1970s.

“It’s ready for probably a little more than a face lift,” he said.

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Day expects the new facilities to host a multitude of events—things like junior activities, livestock clinics, horse shows and judging events.

“We want potential students to come to campus and use that facility and recruit them as future students,” Day said.

Feasibility stage

Wefald joined the foundation in April and she said the College of Agriculture has several very exciting, innovative initiatives that are in the feasibility stage—two of which Day explained earlier.

“As we know cost of building and cost of development on projects is a large amount of money,” she said. “But innovation inspiration does come with a cost. So we look at these projects through two different phases.”

At the time of the session, Wefald said the multi-species competition facility master plan is expected to include: an estimated 138 foot by 258 foot indoor arena with a manager’s office, meeting rooms, a second floor area for VIP, an enclosed 80 foot by 80 foot staging area, and wash racks. Also in phase one is spectator parking spaces, trailer parking spaces, RV hookups and additional parking for the Stanley Stout Center. Wefald expects the elements to blend together to develop the gateway complex.

Also in the arena, ideas for a front entry lobby with concession and beverage areas are being considered, “because we think we might have, obviously, the public coming in to events as well,” Wefald said.

Restroom requirements will be built to city and building code as well as areas for security, first aid, ambulance parking for events that may need it, a manager’s office and storage. Plans call for 3,000 bleacher seats around the arena floor.

“Important thing to know is that there would be roping boxes at the south end of the arena, bucking chutes on the east side of the arena and then there would be ample area for stock circulation with an alleyway,” she said. “Also there is arena storage on the ground level, in the mezzanine area and the camera platform. As you can imagine, people may want to broadcast or have these online feature events or shows or different teaching and training activities that might take place in a facility like this.”

Modernizing the horse unit is a twopart plan, with the first phase being building out a headquarters building, a main stall barn, relocating and covering the horse walker, renovating the existing mare motel into a stallion barn, turnouts, shelters, and road improvements.

“On the headquarters scope, and I know many of you have probably been to or utilized services or teaching expertise of this facility, but the headquarters would include a fully conditioned classroom with viewing windows into the stallion area,” she said.

Also in the headquarters would be restrooms, a lab room with direct access from the classroom and stallion area, a student office, a student gathering area, utility and storage room and an office area for the unit manager.

During the second phase she expects the main stall barn to include wash and saddling bays, a tackroom, ten stalls with swinging partitions, and equipment storage. This will also include an additional 10 stalls with feeders and waterers, a covered wash rack and tack areas with cross ties.

“(It’s an) exciting opportunity to think through what can be when we look at the arena,” Wefald said.

As for the cost of the horse unit upgrades in phase one, Wefald said she was going to be transparent as she could, and noted the plans were going through the feasibility phase with the K-State Foundation.

“The goal is to privately fund these different projects,” she said. “So what does that mean? Feasibility stage? It means we’re out starting to talk to folks and share this concept and idea of what the committee has been planning and what the ultimate desire would be to upgrade these facilities and also get feedback from those who may be willing to invest or support on different aspects or the projects in totality.”

Wefald expects the K-State Foundation Development Committee to vote during the summer months to move the project into full fundraising mode, going in front of the Board of Regents “most likely in the month of September.”

“The next few months are very exciting in terms of moving a project from feasibility into practical fundraising mode,” she said. “Every day the cost of building goes up so we hustle a little faster to have more and more conversation.”

For more about the Kansas State University Foundation and how to give to the college of agriculture, visit

Kylene Scott can be reached at 620-227-1804 or [email protected].