It’s not easy to determine the story of the decade, but some events distinguish themselves over time, while others fade a little with hindsight.
The Mercury each year compiles a list of top stories, then the editors and news staff vote to rank the top 10. Looking back at the biggest news from the past 10 years (see list at the end of this story), some patterns emerge. And if we were to choose, two stories would be contenders for the biggest of the decade.
You could make a case that the 2010s were the decade of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, a $1.25-billion federal animal disease lab now under construction in Manhattan.
It’s a complete building now, with most of the work going on indoors and out of sight. But at the beginning of the decade, funding was still up in the air for the facility. Manhattan had been chosen as the site in 2009 after a three-year national competition. But even after that, funding for NBAF, tied to various federal bills, wasn’t a certainty.
Though construction began on a utilities plant for the lab, we weren’t really home free until the end of 2014, when Congress approved the final $300 million to allow construction to begin. That and the actual groundbreaking for NBAF made it the top stories for both 2014 and 2015. It also appeared on the top 10 in several other years.
But it’s hard to overstate the significance of NBAF to the region. Because of it (and the companies and facilities that preceded it here, such as the neighboring Biosecurity Research Institute), officials have worked to bring agencies, companies and even the Kansas Department of Agriculture to Manhattan, with an eye on making this something of a destination for zoonotic diseases and animal health in general.
Meanwhile, the project has brought jobs and money to the area. Officials said at its peak NBAF had some 800 construction workers on site each day. And it will employ a few hundred technicians, scientists and other employees once it’s open.
The lab’s mission, to protect U.S. agriculture from global biothreats by studying dangerous pathogens, has made it controversial. But that’s also what shows how important it is.
The other contender for the story of the decade is probably the more popular one: K-State head football coach Bill Snyder’s second act. Like NBAF, this story also started just before the 2010s. Snyder’s first tenure with the Wildcats was from 1989 to 2005, and he famously led the greatest turnaround in college football history.
Snyder retired in 2005, but he found he didn’t like being a man of leisure, and fans didn’t like it either (especially considering that his successor, Ron Prince, didn’t do so well). Snyder returned for the 2009 season, and — here’s the part that elevated him from mere legend to mythical status — he led K-State to glory again.
After being picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 Conference in 2011, the football team went 10-2, which was our top story that year. And in the 2012-13 season, the team saw its first No. 1 ranking and tied for the conference crown. Meanwhile, quarterback Collin Klein was a Heisman finalist.
Lots of other things have happened since then. K-State attended eight bowl games, including the Cotton Bowl, between 2010 and 2018, and it had a winning record all but two of those years.
Snyder became only the fourth active coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015. And he battled throat cancer beginning in 2016.
The team finished 5-7 during the 2018 season, and ended its bowl game streak. On Dec. 2 of that year, Snyder announced his retirement from coaching at age 79 after 27 seasons. He made no public statement about his departure for more than seven months, leading some people to question whether the departure was his choice.
Here’s what we know for sure: Snyder, the man for whom both the K-State stadium and the highway leading into town are named, left as the winningest football coach in the school’s history. He was responsible for building not just a great football program, but through its success a better university and more prosperous town. His second act is certainly among the top news of the decade.
Here are the top stories from each of the last 10 years.
The near-flood of Tuttle Creek Lake
Memories of the 1993 flood weren’t far from Manhattan residents’ minds during the spring and summer as water nearly reached the top of Tuttle Creek Dam.
A spring filled with rain in the region led to Tuttle Creek Lake reaching the second-highest level in its history on May 31 at 1,135.84 feet above sea level, mere inches from the top of the spillway gates at 1,136 feet.
Had it reached that mark, officials would have had to open the spillway gates, something they had only done once, in 1993. Officials made an evacuation advisory for the Northview neighborhood from May 29 to June
Ultimately, Army Corps of Engineers officials never opened the spillway gates, but the lake levels still affected a variety of areas.
Tuttle Creek Cove and Stockdale Park closed for the 2019 season because of flood damage.
Residents who lived near the lake north of Manhattan also experienced issues with traveling to and from their homes with some residents taking temporary shelter elsewhere.
Altogether, Tuttle Creek Lake sat above its normal conservation pool level — 1,075 feet — from Feb. 6 to Dec. 11 — 275 days, which officials said was the longest water storage event in the lake’s history.
Bill Snyder hangs up his headphones
Bill Snyder, who lifted Kansas State football from near-death to a respected, consistent winner, left in December 2018 after 27 seasons.
The legendary coach came to Manhattan in 1989, when the Wildcats hadn’t won a single game for three seasons.
Snyder, 79, served two successful tenures at the university, from 1989 to 2005 (his first retirement), and then from 2009 to 2018.
Under his direction, the program won 215 games, two Big 12 titles, four Big 12 North championships, and attended 19 bowls.
Because of Snyder’s rebuilding of the program, Hall of Fame coach Barry Switzer once called Snyder “the coach of the century.”
Snyder himself was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
In 2018, the Wildcats finished a disappointing 5-7, snapping its eight-year bowl streak.
K-State officials said Snyder’s departure was a retirement, though athletics director Gene Taylor later said he had decided to give Snyder $3 million — the same amount stipulated in his contract if he were fired — as a “thank-you.”
School board votes to keep Indians, adopts wolf as additional mascot
After voting to retain the Manhattan High School Indians name and image in December 2016, the Manhattan-Ogden school board set up a committee that worked throughout the first half of 2017 to address issues related to the mascot.
While most of the recommendations were approved without much noise, the creation of a secondary, physical mascot caused some controversy.
The board entrusted the creation of a secondary mascot with the high school’s student council, which held three rounds of voting. In each round, a majority of students increasingly supported adding another mascot.
But controversy struck when, in the final vote, the option between the wolf and bison split the vote, and the third option of “no mascot” received the most votes.
Although “no mascot” received a plurality of votes, the student council and principal Greg Hoyt recommended the school board approve the wolf as the secondary mascot because it received the most votes of the two mascot options and a majority of students voted for one of the two mascots.
Because of the controversy, the board narrowly approved the recommendation with a 4-3 vote.
Myers named K-State president; Schulz leaves for Washington State job
The university saw a change of command in 2016.
Having served as the K-State president for seven years, Kirk Schulz announced in March of that year he was making a move.
Schulz, who crafted the university’s 2025 Master Plan, accepted an offer at Washington State University to serve in the same position with a considerable raise. Noel Schulz, who was a K-State faculty member and Kirk’s wife, accepted a position at WSU as well.
After the announcement, the Kansas Board of Regents’ first action was appointing retired four-star general and K-State alum Gen. Richard Myers, who served as the 15th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2001 to 2005, to the interim post.
With Myers in place, the Regents created a search committee to find the next president. The Regents chose to keep the search closed, barring the public from knowing who applied and interviewed for the job.
On Nov. 15, the Regents met at K-State and announced they were removing Myers’ interim tag, making him president on a more permanent basis.
“I guess this means the honeymoon is over,” Myers said.
Long wait for NBAF construction is over
It’s long been a possibility, and then even a probability, but the planned National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility finally became a certainty for Manhattan in 2015.
A $1.25-billion federal lab intended to study animal and zoonotic diseases, NBAF has been in the works for more than a decade and has been among The Mercury’s top stories of the year since 2008.
Congress at the beginning of March 2015 appropriated the final $300 million needed to begin construction on the lab. Given the unsteady state budget situation and the mounting cost of the project, this was not, even at the end, a sure thing.
But it went through, and by the end of May that year, then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other officials broke ground on the main facility.
Construction has been under way since then. First, enormous cranes in place and trucks constantly carting dirt and materials to and from the site on the northern edge of the K-State campus.
NBAF is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2022 or 2023.
NBAF takes a step forward
Congress passed a resolution in December 2014 allowing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to proceed with building the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan.
Congressional committees at that time approved the final $300 million for the project, but the House and Senate had yet to vote on the measure.
The utility plant for NBAF was under construction at that point, but funding had been up in the air for some time.
The resolution called for DHS to award a construction contract by May 1, 2015.
The 580,000-square-foot facility is intended to replace the aging facility on Plum Island, N.Y.
K-State wins Big 12 triple crown
In 2012-13, K-State became one of only four schools in the BCS era to win league championships in football, men’s basketball and baseball in the same academic year — joining Texas (2005-06), Stanford (1999-00) and Louisville (2012-13).
There was tiny asterisk necessary for football and basketball, since those titles were shared with Oklahoma and Kansas, respectively.
But the trophies were real, and they were displayed on billboards throughout the region.
Those team titles, coupled with postseason appearances for the volleyball and women’s basketball teams, as well as the individual successes of Olympic high jumper Erik Kynard, three-time NCAA tennis qualifier Petra Niedermayerova and Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein gave K-State fans an entertaining ride.
The banner year included K-State’s first Big 12 football title since 2003, the first men’s basketball championship since 1977 and the first baseball title since 1933.
K-State has won only three football conference championships in its history — 1934, 2003 and 2012.
Manhattan part of Congressional redistricting
For most of the first six months of 2012, Manhattan along with Riley and Pottawatomie counties, were chips in a political power play that dominated the Kansas Legislature.
Ostensibly the issue concerned how Congressional districts would be drawn, but that was only the cover story. The real question was whether plurality conservatives or a liberal-moderate coalition would draw legislative boundaries. When the sides failed to agree on that question, the matter of all the boundaries, including the congressional one, was thrown to a three-judge panel in a package deal. The judges took little time shifting the area from the 2nd District into the 1st.
The political ramifications of that whole fight were profound, but the local bottom line was that Manhattan was disassociated from Topeka and associated with the western two-thirds of the state. That meant no continuance of a military alliance with Leavenworth, no animal health corridor alliance with other I-70 cities, and no political contest, since then-First District Rep. Tim Huelskamp was unopposed on both the August primary and November general election ballots.
K-State football goes 10-2
The Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 in 2011. Few had K-State doing much at all.
Yet in the end, the K-State football team supplied Wildcat fans with a season they won’t soon forget.
K-State finished the regular season that year with a 10-2 overall record and a 7-2 mark in the Big 12 to finish second, behind only Oklahoma State. The Wildcats also closed out the season with a No. 8 ranking in the BCS standings and earned a spot in the Cotton Bowl to play No. 6 Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The Wildcats won 10 games for the first time since the 2003 season. And while the 10 wins was significant, the way K-State got those victories proved to be even more special, as the Wildcats won eight games by seven points or less, often requiring late-game heroics.
Junior quarterback Collin Klein led the Wildcats offensively with more than 1,700 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, while racking up another 1,099 yards and a school-record 26 TDs on the ground.
Manhattan passes anti-discrimination ordinance
In December 2010, commissioners passed the first reading of a proposed amendment to the city’s discrimination ordinance that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes.
The ordinance did several other things as well. It established the Human Rights and Services Board (HRSB) as a quasi-judicial board with subpoena power and the ability it issue penalties. It also defined sexual orientation and gender identity and prohibits discrimination in the areas of public accommodation, housing and employment.
The ordinance passed on a 3-2 vote, with the understanding that there will be further research and revisions. Mayor Bruce Snead and Commissioners Jim Sherow and Jayme Morris-Hardeman supported the ordinance and commissioners Bob Strawn and Loren Peppered opposed it.
The supporting commissioners and proponents of the ordinance cited civil rights as the major reason for passing the ordinance. Opposing commissioners and other opponents of the ordinance cited no demonstrated need for the ordinance, unclear language and uneasiness about giving the HRSB quasi-judicial power.
The extended debate was also widely seen as mobilizing political interest in commissioner governance, with four candidates already in the field for the April election by year’s end.