Nation's credit crisis delays stadium plans

THE CREDIT CRUNCH in the nation's financial markets has parked a hurdle on Washington State's road to the launch of the $40 million Phase III remodel of Martin Stadium. Financial institutions aren't in positions to underwrite the project's start, WSU athletic director Jim Sterk told CF.C on Friday. So next month's targeted construction start is off and a new timeline is being mapped out.

Ideally, said Sterk, Phase III will begin sometime in 2009. But it's contingent on the financial markets.

"We're absolutely, definitely going to get it done The stadium needs to get done, and will be done, as soon as possible. This project is critical to Washington State," he said.

WSU will be ready to move the moment the marketplace allows.

The design stage of Phase III is nearly complete, so the focus now is on preparing "for the eventual market turnaround and to try to take advantage of favorable construction rates," said Sterk, who planned to outline the situation to boosters in an email.

Phases I and II of the Martin upgrade -- collectively costing about $27 million -- were launched in December 2006 and formally concluded last month with the unveiling of the giant bronzed statue, "Cougar Pride," near the Stadium Way entrance.

Phase III, which will add 2,200 luxury and other premium seats on the student side of the stadium, was originally planned to get off the ground via revenue bonds leveraged from private donations and the advance sale of many of the premium seats and luxury boxes.

Sterk said the nation's credit meltdown dried up the bonding market, so the school turned to banks and more traditional financing sources. He said the response, both regionally and nationally, was the same: The money's not available right now.

SIDE-VIEW OF THE PLANNED PREMIUM SEATING TIER ON THE STUDENT SIDE OF THE STADIUM. Color renderings of the frontal view are at the bottom of this page.

WSU's strategy is to move forward with the public phase of premium seating sales in early 2009 while at the same time continuing to solicit contributions toward the stadium project. In fact, the formal kickoff of the broader stadium fundraising campaign will start late next month when a glossy brochure is mailed to boosters and alums. Fundraising to date has been aimed largely at securing five- to seven-figure donations. The brochure distribution will mark the start of the "public phase" of the money-raising effort.

Phase III -- and, ultimately, a Phase IV which would enclose the west endzone -- will allow WSU to keep pace with its Pac-10 counterparts, Sterk said.

Asked if WSU would consider asking the State Legislature for stadium funding assistance just as the University of Washington is doing, Sterk was clear.

Legislative priorities, particularly at a time when the state's budget situation points to potentially deep cuts, must remain on academics, he said. Referencing WSU President Elson Floyd's recent outline of capital budget priorities in the upcoming Legislative session in Olympia, Sterk pointed to the Applied Technology Classroom project, a new Veterinary Medical Research Building, and basic campus infrastructure such as the Wastewater Reclamation Project, as the top priorities.

For information on the Martin Stadium fundraising campaign, or to make an advance purchase of premium seats, contact Justin Felker in the Athletic Foundation office at 509-368-6729.


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