BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU and WKU Athletics celebrated the groundbreaking of the Hilltopper Fieldhouse and new football press box on Friday at the site of the new Fieldhouse.
Construction on the Hilltopper Fieldhouse is expected to officially begin later this year with project completion late in 2025. The press box construction will begin in December and is expected to be ready for kickoff in 2024.
“Today, we gather not only to witness the beginning of construction, but to celebrate the culmination of a shared vision, unparalleled determination, and unwavering commitment to the pursuit of excellence,” WKU President Timothy C. Caboni said. “The WKU Indoor Fieldhouse represents the embodiment of our commitment to provide our students with opportunities for growth, achievement, and success.
“This state-of-the-art facility will serve as a hub of innovation and collaboration, uniting four diverse and dynamic aspects of our campus life – athletics, forensics, Esports, and the Big Red Marching Band. It will be a place in which dreams are realized, skills are honed, and competitive passions are ignited. … Beyond its functional enhancements to these programs, this building represents our dedication to a sense of community and togetherness, providing a place for our students to form friendships and celebrate victories.
“In addition to the Hilltopper Fieldhouse, today also marks the start of construction of a much-needed new press box for Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium. Our current press facilities are beyond their useful life, and replacing them with a new press box, situated atop the Harbaugh Club, will provide the amenities that members of the media experience at other stadiums and will demonstrate the brand of Hilltopper hospitality we strive to offer all our guests.”
The 120,000 square-foot Hilltopper Fieldhouse will be home to the WKU Forensics and Esports programs, as well as provide practice and training space for the Big Red Marching Band and Hilltopper Athletics. The facility will be built upon the land that currently is home to the football practice field, in between Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium and Nick Denes Field.
The 15,300 square-foot press box will serve as a first-class home for media coverage of Hilltopper Football games. Situated above the existing Harbaugh Club, the press box will house the television broadcast, radio booths, coaches’ booths, working press and game operations. Premium suites will also be in the new facility.
“We have invested more into student-athlete specific areas over the last five years than ever before, greatly enhancing the areas of sports medicine, mental health, strength/conditioning, nutrition, academic advising, career development, NIL, and cost of attendance,” WKU Director of Athletics Todd Stewart said. “In the last 10 years alone, we have invested close to $15 million into our facilities and will have made nearly $60 million in total upgrades, improvements, and additions by the time the Hilltopper Fieldhouse is complete in 2025. At that point, we will be in the best position from an athletics facilities standpoint in the history of our university.
“If WKU Athletics was a stock, the recommendation would be to buy. There has never been a better time to be a student-athlete at Western Kentucky University.”
Speaking at the ceremony were Caboni, Stewart, WKU Director of Big Red Marching Band Matthew McCurry, WKU Esports Faculty Advisor Patricia Todd, WKU Director of Forensics Ganer Newman, and K. Norman Berry Associates Principal Architect Manager Tim Doelling.
Also present for the ceremony were WKU Football Head Coach Tyson Helton, WKU Baseball Head Coach Marc Rardin, WKU Board of Regents Vice Chair Currie Milliken, Regent Shane Spiller, Regent Phillip Bale, Regent Sam Kurtz, and WKU First Lady Kacy Caboni, among several other guests from the WKU community.
Renderings for the facility were revealed during the WKU Board of Regents committee meetings in October and can be found here. The Board of Regents approved the project in June 2022.
WKU selected K. Norman Berry Associates Architects in association with HKS Architects for the project. A Steering Committee comprised of WKU faculty and staff worked with KNBA Architects & HKS Architects to design the new facilities.
“Today’s groundbreaking marks a new chapter in the rich history of our beloved institution – one that reflects dedication to learning, a spirit of community, and a belief in the limitless potential of our students,” Caboni said.
Hilltopper Fieldhouse and Press Box
The new Hilltopper Fieldhouse will:
- Serve as the permanent home to the WKU Forensics program and provide the program with modern classroom, practice, office, and competition space to allow it to continue its run of excellence as the most dominant collegiate speech and debate organization in the country.
- House the WKU E-Sports programs and teams and equip them with state-of-the-art competition space, practice pods and offices.
- Become the new base for the Big Red Marching Band program with dedicated storage/support space for the band as well as a venue for year-round, all-weather practice.
- Include a new Baseball Clubhouse with Locker Room, Weight Room, Team Room and Coaches’ Offices.
- House a new baseball hitting facility with four batting cages and flexible multi-purpose space.
- Incorporate an 87,000 square foot indoor training facility for use by the WKU Marching Band, WKU Athletics, Intramurals and the greater WKU community.
- Serve to better equip WKU students for their endeavors in the classroom and in their competitions.
- Serve as a place of learning and collaboration for the various programs that will call it home.
- Celebrate the great success of the programs that will continue to grow and succeed from within this new facility.
- Encourage and provide the tools for innovation, learning, collaboration and success.
The new Press Box will:
- Be constructed within the existing Smith West stadium, as a new floor level built above the existing Harbaugh Club.
- Include modern media and press facilities to enable the media to better broadcast the continued success of the WKU programs.
- Provide state-of-the-art coaches facilities to better equip coaches and staff to guide the student-athletes of the University.
- House several suites for additional premium seating and viewing options.