WICHITA, Kan. — Wichita State will embark on a $7.3 million Phase 1 renovation of Wilkins Stadium, home of Shocker softball, that will be made possible in part through a substantial $1.1 million estate gift from long-time Shocker athletic supporter and fan Linda Parke and a generous $100,000 gift from Jeanie and Ricky Brotherton.
Of Parke's estate, a total of $500,000 will be evenly allocated between endowed scholarships supporting students majoring in math and men's basketball athletes. Parke designated the remaining portion to support Wichita State's area of greatest capital need. A focus on softball made the renovation of Wilkins Stadium an easy choice.
"It's incredible how much of an impact an individual gift can have, and Linda's generosity will truly make a difference for our student-athletes and these programs at Wichita State," said Elizabeth King, president and CEO of WSU Foundation and Alumni Engagement. "Her trust in the university to use her gift well is so meaningful, and we are excited to be able to use it for these improvements to Wilkins Stadium."
"Over the last 18 months, Wichita State University has strategically invested significant resources in our softball program, intending to maximize immediate support and compliment the competitive growth our coaches and student-athletes have worked so hard to achieve," said Wichita State Director of Athletics Kevin Saal. "From renewed commitments to Coach Bredbenner and her staff, to new batting cages, lights, future home dugout and synthetic grass surface (to be installed upon conclusion of the 2023 season), we have invested over two-million dollars in our softball program."
The Wilkins Stadium masterplan project will bring state of the art training and playing facilities to Wichita State softball student-athletes and coaches. The renovations include a 12,471 square-foot team complex which includes a locker room, coaches locker room, classroom, team room, athletic training room, staff offices, break room, work room, umpire locker rooms and laundry area. It will also include a 14,400 square-foot indoor practice facility that will feature a full indoor infield and batting cages along with storage areas and viewing areas for coaches. Turf will also be installed in the outfield and on the warning track, foul territory and apron areas at Wilkins Stadium in June of 2023.
Fan amenities include an enclosed concourse with a grand front entrance, berm outfield seating, a new scoreboard with videoboard, expanded seating areas, suites and press box, ticket office, concession stands, additional restrooms, merchandise store, fan netting and outfield suites. There will be a variety of seating options for 1,500 fans including chairback seating, bleacher seating and berm outfield seating as well as a new entryway into the parking lot connected to Wilkins Stadium.
The stadium renovation will also include a field technology area, spaces for the media, radio and TV booths, control room for the videoboard and a multi-use suite that can be used for multiple types of groups including recruiting events, team events, private companies, community members and other large groups.
The single-story team complex will be constructed on the southwest corner of Wilkins Stadium with the indoor practice facility built just north of the team complex.
"The investment the University is making into Wilkins Stadium and the softball program is phenomenal," said Head Softball Coach Kristi Bredbenner. "Fans of Wichita State athletics are one of the foundations of this athletic department and support outside of the cheers in the stands will give our student-athletes an opportunity to play and practice in a world-class facility. Over the last several years there has been a movement to support female sports. We are thrilled and thankful to have a lifelong female Shocker fan like Linda Parke provide a leadership gift in support of Phase I of the project. We cherish the relationship we have built with Ricky and Jeanie Brotherton and appreciate the investments they continue to make to the Shocker Softball program. The growth of Shocker Softball is a testament to all of the former and current student-athletes that have worked hard to leave the program better than they found it. I can't wait for each and every one of them to see the fruits of their labor and for our fans to pack the stadium to cheer on this program."
Bredbenner has been Wichita State's softball coach for the last 11 seasons and transformed the program into one of the top programs in the Midwest, consistently vying for NCAA Regional bids. Her record during that time is 320-252-1, including a 75-31-1 mark over the last two seasons, which could be considered the best two seasons in program history. She became Wichita State's all-time winningest coach in 2022 when she recorded her 314th career victory. Since joining the American Athletic Conference, Bredbenner's teams are 56-27-1 in league play.
Under her guidance, Wichita State has won three regular season championships, two conference tournament titles and appeared in four of the six NCAA Regionals in school history. The first two All-Americans in program history have also come under the leadership of Bredbenner. Wichita State also entered the Top 25 for the first time ever in 2021 and finished the season in the final NFCA poll.
Forty-one student-athletes have earned all-conference accolades and 16 NFCA All-Region honors during Bredbenner's tenure. Bredbenner and her staff were named the American Athletic Conference Coaching Staff of the Year in the record-breaking 2021 season.
"Since July of 2022, and in parallel with our recent investments, Wichita State University and Shocker Athletics have engaged in a comprehensive facility master planning process for Wilkins Stadium," Saal said. "These efforts provide a definitive plan through which we intend to build a consistent championship-level softball program positioned to maximize student-athlete development, recruitment and retention. In the coming months, we will remain laser-focused on acquiring the resources necessary to fuel our bold and progressive plans for Shocker Softball."
Minimum estimates for the Wilkins Stadium masterplan project currently stand at approximately $17.5 million. GLMV Architecture and facility planners are completing design concepts and planning to build in phases.
Phase 1 of the project would include the softball team facility and the indoor practice facility at $7.3 million, Phase 2 would include the entrance/press box/ticket office and seating areas at $1.9 million, Phase 3 would include the remodeling of existing facilities/seating/fan experience elements at $3.5 million and Phase 4 would include the outfield area/event pavilions and paving at $700,000.
Construction estimates place the total at $13.4 million, with an additional $3.4 million for project soft costs, and $750,000 for the videoboard to put the total project at $17.5 million.