Beaming Moos lays out contruction plans

PULLMAN -- It seemed only fitting that Bill Moos was beaming like a new father when discussing his baby – the $80 million revamping of Martin Stadium. "It will be breathtaking when you look at it," Moos told fans and media at a press conference in Bohler Gym prior to Saturday afternoon's football game with Utah.

Since returning to his alma mater to take over as athletic director last year, Moos has stressed the need to upgrade facilities to keep up with rivals, attract recruits and boost attendance.

Moos said construction work begins at 6 a.m. Monday and is planned for completion in time for next year's home opener Sept. 8 versus Eastern Washington.

Moos said the addition of three levels of premium seats, a club room available only to premium-seats ticket holders and a new press box at Martin Stadium – all approved by the WSU Board of Regents on Friday – is a vital first step.

"It will be a fabulous venue for our fans," Moos said. "They're going to be able to take pride in Martin Stadium.

"It will have the appearance of a big-time major college football stadium. That's important for the comfort and convenience of our fans, but more importantly, it's going to be an attraction, I feel, for recruits."

Moos declined to reveal the source, but he said the Cougars have already secured $1 million in naming rights for the new seating area from one donor. Moos said two other seating area naming rights deals are "very close" to being finalized.

Upgrades to Martin Stadium have been in the planning or discussion stages for years, but financing has always been a problem.

Favorable bonds rates prompted Moos to request, and the Regents to approve, $80 million in bonds. A $17 million treasure chest originally aimed for the premium seating area can now be used elsewhere, minus $5 million used to finance the planning of the seating project and a proposed football operations building that Moos is hoping to start building a year from now.

Moos said he would have preferred to construct the football operations building -- which will include offices, training facilities, a football-only weight lifting center, etc. -- before the new seats.

The athletic director said he changed directions when fans let him know they "wanted something in return" for their donations. Also, a reduction in the original proposed size of the football operations building led to delays in completing the design, and Moos decided it would be wisest not to seek Regents approval for the funding of the building and seats at the same time.

"It's easier to fund raise for the building than it would be for the premium seats because we have a lot of naming opportunities (with the building)," Moos said.

Moos said he hopes to build WSU's first football operations building in time for the 2013 season, "but we may be talking 2014." Moos noted that construction timing is complicated by the fact that the building will be erected between the west end zone and the Rogers Field football practice area, and games and practices can interrupt work.

Moos declined to estimate the cost of the operations building, since design plans are not finished. At one time, Moos estimated the operations building and the premium seats area would cost $40 million each. Sources familiar with the project say the operations building could be in the $70 million range.

Moos said the operations building will be less than 80,000 square feet. Financing plans are not settled, but Moos said increased revenue from the new Pac-12 television package (starting next year and gradually increasing) will average $21 million and provide "the backbone" for facility improvements.

"Last year," Moos noted, "we realized $2.7 million."

Justin Felker, the Spokane regional director for the Cougar Athletic Fund, said prices for the premium seats (sold on a season basis) range from $1,700 for a club seat to $50,000 for the largest of the 21 suites, which hold up to 24 fans. Prices include tax-deductible donations to the athletic department.

Some seating areas include cover, televisions and inside-outside options for viewing. All three levels of the new seats have access to the club room, which is expected to be 11,000-plus square feet and hold up to 500 fans. Spirits, beer, wine and "high-end concessions" will be available in the club room.

The new seats will boost capacity approximately 1,900 to more than 34,000. Martin Stadium's capacity was 35,117 -- the smallest in the Pacific-12 Conference -- before some west end zone seats were replaced by a hospitality area this year in preparation for construction of the football operations building.

Moos said the new seats could provide WSU with "between three and four million dollars of additional revenue" each year. He can't wait for work to start Monday morning.

"I'm excited," a beaming Moos said. "I'm going to be out there myself to blow up that press box."

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