Objective: Cultivate a “college town feel” in Wichita Falls through investments in MSU athletics and off-campus amenities and expanded opportunities for community involvement
While MSU enrolled nearly 6,000 students during the 2019-20 academic year, many stakeholders said that Wichita Falls lacks a “college town feel.” Said one individual, “You see that in Denton with UNT – with the green – it’s in your face. You can’t drive through Lubbock without seeing Raider Red on everything.” The input participant added that this feeling is largely absent in Wichita Falls.
Stakeholders said they would like to see Wichita Falls cultivate a college town atmosphere. Doing so would help boost community pride and give residents “something to rally around” while also helping to raise the profile of MSU during a time when higher education institutions are facing challenges related to enrollment and funding. This Key Initiative deals with ways – both large and small – to help promote a college town atmosphere in Wichita Falls.
At the top of the list are two “moonshot” ideas that emerged from stakeholder engagement. The first is building a new on-campus football stadium at MSU. (The team currently plays at Memorial Stadium, which is located far from campus and better suited to high school athletics.) The second would be transitioning the school’s athletic programs from NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I FCS to increase fan interest and reunite with former rivals from the Division II Lone Star Conference who have made a similar move in recent years. An on-campus stadium represents a major capital investment and Division I athletics are associated with significantly higher scholarship, compliance, and administrative costs relative to Division II. Accordingly, these big-ticket items would almost certainly require substantial private donations and investments to become a reality. But input participants nevertheless expressed a strong desire to pursue these ambitious projects. Other recommendations in this Key Initiative address improving off-campus options and access in the vicinity of the MSU and Vernon College Century City campus and enhancing opportunities for students to engage in the Wichita Falls community.
- Tarleton State transition to Division I FCS (Stephenville, TX)
- Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium (Abilene, TX)
1. Ensure strong collaboration between MSU and the Wichita Falls community
- Work with MSU leadership to support efforts to expand enrollment or otherwise enhance the visibility and reputation of the institution
- Identify areas in which MSU is well positioned to lead and areas that will require community support
2. Pursue the development of an on-campus football stadium for MSU
- Work with MSU officials and potential private donors to pursue the development of a new on-campus football stadium for MSU
- Commission a feasibility study to identify expected stadium costs and potential donors
- In conjunction with the feasibility study, partners could also determine the viability of funding additional operating expenses associated with transitioning MSU athletics from NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I FCS to boost interest and reunite with former rivals from the Lone Star Conference
- If private funding can be secured, engage MSU, the Chamber, and other community partners to promote games and seek buy-in from the business community through the sale of sponsorships, suites or corporate hospitality areas, and tailgating opportunities
3. Enhance off-campus amenities and multimodal transportation access for MSU students
- Work with property owners and prospective private developers and investors to identify opportunities for mixed-use redevelopment of underutilized and/or underperforming commercial properties in the vicinity of the MSU and Vernon College Century City campuses
- Could also pursue additional recreation and/or entertainment amenities that appeal to younger residents; would also likely appeal to Airmen in Training and other SAFB personnel
- Evaluate the need for additional master planning work to ensure high-quality urban design and strong multimodal connectivity to off-campus amenities
4. Create opportunities for students to engage with the Wichita Falls community
- Work with public, private, and nonprofit partners to provide additional community support for MSU’s annual Maverick’s Day of Service event; seek corporate sponsorships to fund food, prizes, and other perks to increase participation
- Connect students to existing and expanded Intern Wichita Falls programming (see Key Initiative #2)
- Engage student artists and volunteers in public art revitalization efforts (see Key Initiative #9)
- Emphasize entrepreneurial support and events for students (see Key Initiative #13)