K-State breaks ground on new event center and arena 

Dignitaries for the ceremonial groundbreaking include, pictured left to right are Kala Ade, representing GH2 Architects; Jeanne Mabery, representing the Marvin Robinson and Jack Goldstein charitable trusts; Kansas State University senior Brody Nemecek; Justin Janssen, K-State College of Veterinary Medicine; Mike Day, department head for K-State Animal Sciences and Industry; Marty Vanier, project donor; Ernie Minton, Eldon Gideon Dean of K-State's College of Agriculture; K-State President Richard Linton; Carl Ice, Kansas Board of Regents vice chair; Gregg Willems, K-State Foundation president and CEO; JP and Theresa Bilbrey, project donors; and K-State senior Kristen Kahler. (Photo by Bill Spiegel.)

Kansas State University’s Department of Animal Science broke ground Dec. 15 on the Bilbrey Family Event Center, a new animal science venue to be built on the northeast corner of the K-State campus in Manhattan. 

The Pride of Wildcat Land Marching Band played Wildcat Victory and Willie the Wildcat gave high-fives to the hundreds in attendance at the groundbreaking, which is just one of $220 million improvements to be made in agriculture infrastructure at K-State. 

The Bilbrey Family Event Center is a multispecies event space, with a competition arena to support teaching, youth and Extension events, said Mike Day, head of the K-State Department of Animal Science. 

“This is an exciting time for K-State. I don’t want to understate the value of having good facilities for our students,” Day said. “We’re a national brand—I’ll put our faculty, staff and students up against anyone. But our facilities need an upgrade.” 

A full crowd of alumni, faculty and friends of the Kansas State University gathered at the Stanley Stout Center to celebrate breaking ground on the new Bilbrey Family Event Center. (Photo by Bill Spiegel.)
A full crowd of alumni, faculty and friends of the Kansas State University gathered at the Stanley Stout Center to celebrate breaking ground on the new Bilbrey Family Event Center. (Photo by Bill Spiegel.)

Located adjacent to the Stanley Stout Center in what is known as the Edge District, the Bilbrey Family Event Center’s lead donors are JP and Teresa Bilbrey, owners of the Doubling Gap Ranch in Newville, Pennsylvania. The indoor arena will become the Tee Jay Quarter Horses Family Arena, thanks to a gift from the Walker family of Canton, Kansas. 

When complete in August 2025, the center will have a 130-foot by 250-foot arena, with bleachers for 3,000 people; stock pens with chutes and roping boxes, an 80-foot by 80-foot staging area, covered wash area and 10 small wash pens, lobby with concessions and a second-floor VIP area. It will be the new home of the K-State Rodeo Club and the site for the annual Collegiate Rodeo. Plus, it will host horse and livestock programs and competitions, said Greg Willems, K-State Foundation president and CEO. 

The center could host as many as 30 events per year, “which will be an economic driver for the community local businesses,” Willems said. 

What’s next for Weber Arena

The new Bilbrey Family Event Center will replace the aging Weber Arena, which is attached to Weber and Call halls on K-State’s main campus. Beginning in 2024, those spaces will be remodeled to create new hands-on learning spaces, including a new pavilion that will have animal holding facilities nearby, and access to an updated meat laboratory, to give students live-to-meat evaluation opportunities. 

Additionally, Weber and Call will have improved accessibility and modernized research and teaching space. 

“Our existing students will be able to carry out a lot of their events and activities in modern facilities, whether they are at the new event center, or whether they’re in those support facilities being put in at the same location as the old Weber Arena,” Day said. “It’s really a collective combination on campus.” 

The Bilbrey Family Event Center and Tee Jay Quarter Horses Family Arena are part of the K-State Agricultural Innovation Initiative, a comprehensive plan to beef up the university’s agriculture facilities. Projects already underway include the new Agronomy Research and Innovation Center, north of Bill Snyder Family Stadium; plus the Global Center for Grain and Food Innovation, which connects K-State’s animal science and food science programs, with its grain science program. 

The Agricultural Innovation Initiative represents the single largest building project in Kansas State University history, said Richard Linton, K-State president. 

“I believe it very well may be the largest agricultural project in the history of the land grant university system,” he added. “With each facility that we build, renovate or demolish, we are one step closer to creating unparalleled opportunities for our faculty, staff and students with a goal of achieving our highest potential to make transformational impacts in agriculture.”