Upgraded stadium is vital, says Doba

AUBURN – Washington State University students are about to have an opportunity to influence the future direction of the Cougar football program. On March 7 and 8, the students will vote on whether they should be charged a mandatory fee of no more than $25 per semester for the purpose of helping to cover the costs of renovating areas of Martin Stadium.

Bill Doba, WSU football coach, told hundreds of fans in attendance at the Night With Cougar Football celebration at Emerald Downs Feb. 17 that an improved stadium is considered vital if WSU is going to continue to recruit successfully.

He talked about the competitive edge Oregon and Oregon State have as the result of their improved football facilities.

"You walk into that Oregon State stadium and you look up at that one side and you think you're in the Seahawks' stadium,'' Doba said. "It is beautiful.''

A renovated Martin Stadium "will help us in recruiting,'' he added. "And it also tells the parents that this university is willing to make a commitment to athletics.''

Jim Sterk, athletic director, said the total cost of the four-phase project has been estimated at $73 million. Phase One of the renovation is scheduled to begin following the 2006 football season.

"For the past two years we've done a master-plan study and we've done conceptual design phases in planning,'' Sterk said. "Now we're going to move ahead with the schematic design. The $5 per (football) ticket that we charge people is helping to pay for design costs and then we're going to be able to bond on that and start Phase One.''

If approved by the students, the $25-per-semester fee will allow for additional bonding of up to $10 million, Sterk said.

Phase One, Sterk said, will involve the construction of an entrance to the stadium off Stadium Way on the east end so that fans can access the north and south sides of the stadium.

"Right now you can't go from one section to another. It's not a good situation," Sterk said.

Also part of Phase One is an expansion of the concourse on the north side of the stadium and the addition of restrooms.

Sterk said Phase One costs are expected to be about $10 million. Phase Two will be about $20 million. At an estimated cost of about $30 million, Phase Three will involve the addition of premium seating behind the student section in a separate building. Phase Four will involve enclosing the east end in a bowl of about 5,000 seats at an estimated cost of $13 million.

"We're hoping to get started on all of it over the next two years." Sterk said.

Obviously, a key element on how fast the project moves will be determined by the student vote on the $25 fee. A web site martinstadium.org has been established in part to provide the students with answers to possible questions about the project.

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