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Wazzu’s Makeover: The Cougar Football Project
By Britton Ransford
PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State’s athletic director, Bill Moos, came to the Palouse in 2010 with a vision of excellence and a rigid plan for making that dream a reality. As the Cougs’ 2011 football season came to another early end, the first steps towards rebranding WSU athletics started to take form. A new, big-name head coach was brought into town with a fast-paced offensive scheme, and much-needed renovations to the aging Martin Stadium began construction.
Moos’ action plan, which has been aptly dubbed The Cougar Football Project, is a massive two-phase undertaking aimed at giving the Pac-12’s smallest and most architecturally inept stadium a facelift. Martin Stadium has long been overdue for renovation and, on November 18th of last year, the WSU Board of Regents approved the $80 million makeover.
The project is largely going to be funded by the new $4.3 billion Pac-12 TV contract that nets WSU roughly $21 million per year guaranteed. According to university administrators, the project will also rely on revenues from the athletic system to make debt payments, but state appropriated funds will not be used in any form. That shouldn’t be a problem though, as the financial gains from Larry Scott’s brainchild could balloon to nearly $30 million annually under the right circumstances.
Some of the funds have been raised privately as well. One of the biggest contributors to the project has been Xtreme Consulting CEO and President, Greg Rankich, who is an alumnus of WSU’s College of Business (’94). Early this year, Rankich pleasantly surprised Moos and the entire Cougar family with a very generous $3 million donation towards the Cougar Football Project. It was the largest single gift in Washington State athletics history.
“As a proud Coug, this project means a lot to me personally,” explained Rankich. “I hope all Cougars out there will join me in helping to make this and other facility projects in Athletics a reality.” While I don’t expect too many more seven-figure donations to come down the wire, Rankich’s goodwill will certainly have a large impact on the Project, the University, and the community as a whole.
“Regardless if you care about football or sports in general, a football program is the highest visibility program for most universities. Success raises the overall visibility,” said Rankich. “If you have success on the field it drives more research dollars, it drives more donations; drives more students wanting to go there; and drives the quality of students because now the university can be selective in who gets accepted and who doesn’t.”
The first phase of the renovations, the Southside Project, will replace the old press box above the grandstands on the south side of the stadium. The massive structure, which is only partially constructed, already dwarfs the previous setup and will include a new press box, club seats, loge boxes, luxury suites, and a clubroom. ALSC Architects, a Spokane based firm, is heading up the renovation.
Construction on the Southside Project began the Monday following the final home game of the 2011 season – a gut-wrenching overtime loss to Utah. The project has moved forward swiftly and Moos expects fans to be enjoying the new building in time for the 2012 home opener against Eastern Washington on September 8th.
The second phase of the two-part plan is called the West End-Zone Project, which aims to completely change the athletic experience for Washington State football players. The construction of a Football Operations building, attached to the west side of Martin, will centralize everything that the Cougar football program could ever need. The building will include new weight rooms, coaching offices, meeting rooms, and an alumni heritage center, all of which will help to usher in a new era of Wazzu athletics.
The Regents have not yet approved the second-phase of the Project, but administrators figure to move forward with a proposal sometime during the summer. The counsel will need to assess the financial outlook of the Project, based on network revenues, donations, and athletic suite sales. Upon approval, the West End-Zone Project would begin construction following the 2012 season and would take about 15 months to complete.
“This is the beginning of a very important stage for Washington State University and it’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics,” said Moos. “I’m thrilled and excited to see the project moving forward and I’m looking forward to our progress.” If the excitement of the facility and staff improvements can translate to on-field success for the Cougs, you have to figure that Bill Moos will be the AD on the Palouse for many years to come.