A lot has transpired since the Kansas Shrine Bowl appeared in Topeka. The 40th game is returning to the capital city after a 13-year absence.
It will be July 27 at Washburn University’s Yager Stadium. The last game played in Topeka was in 2000 when the East defeated the West, 21-14.
Since then the game has been played twice in Manhattan, Wichita and Hays, and three times in Pittsburg and Emporia.
A push for returning the game to Topeka began with the Shawnee County Sports Council, an organization that works to bring quality sporting events to Topeka and Shawnee County.
Former radio play-by-play broadcaster Bruce Steinbrock, who broadcast Washburn sports for many years and is now assistant athletic director for development at Washburn, said the council felt Topeka needed to be in the mix of cities hosting the state’s premier all-star game that features 68 of the state’s top players.
“We had a lot of businesses that wanted to see the game here,” he said. “Obviously the Shrine Temple (Arab Shrine) was squarely behind getting the game back in their backyard.
“It certainly deserves to be at Washburn. There’s so much that’s happened on this campus from 2000 to 2013 that it’s going to be a new look for people who haven’t seen Washburn for a long time.”
Not only has the campus undergone major changes, but the stadium is different. The most noticeable differences are the Bianchino Pavilion, housing luxury seating and a modern press box that was added in 2003, and Sportexe field turf that was installed in 2006. New lighting was installed in 2012.
In its early days, the Shrine Bowl was rotated among three cities and the game was played at the state’s three largest football stadiums — KSU Stadium in Manhattan (now Bill Snyder Family Stadium), Memorial Stadium in Lawrence and Cessna Stadium in Wichita.
The Shrine Bowl expanded its list of venues in 1988 with a game at Moore Bowl in Topeka and has since added Hays, Emporia and Pittsburg as regular venues.
Steinbrock likes the trend of playing the game at the MIAA schools (Washburn, Fort Hays State, Pittsburg State, and Emporia State).
“Nothing against KU or K-State,” he said. “Those are great venues and athletes love playing on those stages, but when you put seven to 10 thousand people in the smaller stadiums you feel an energy that the kids feed off.”
He said staging the games at the various campuses gives the schools a chance to showcase what they have and what they are planning, citing Washburn’s plans for a new welcome center, an indoor athletic practice facility and a new Kansas Bureau of Investigation building just approved by the Kansas Legislature.
“It’s absolutely a chance to put your best foot forward and say this is who we are and I think every institution is going to take advantage of that,” he said.
Having the game in Topeka might be a harbinger of good things to come for the East squad. The West leads the overall series 25-13-1, and currently has a seven-game winning streak. But the East has won all four games played in Topeka (1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000).