The whirs, thunks and crashes of construction at Martin Stadium can be heard faintly in the distance from the Bohler Athletic Complex. It’s a summer day, and the construction is still at its peak.
Athletic Director Bill Moos is in his office looking at carpet samples.
“This one intrigues me,” Moos says, tapping his foot on a square of black and red material. He needs new carpeting in his office — the old stuff is teal.
He turns from the swirly square and picks a plain Cougar crimson.
Apparently it’s the right choice, according to the man showing the samples. Here, ‘right’ is code for ‘the cheapest.’
But for the Southside Project, just audible from Moos’ office, the cheapest was not an option.
‘A Source of Pride’
The $80-million stadium renovations — which are predicted to come out under budget and finished early — will be revealed to Coug fans for the first time at Saturday’s game against Eastern Washington University, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 8:30 a.m. at the entrance to the luxury suites.
This is only the beginning for the Cougar Football Project, and with coaches’ salaries high and stadium renovations hitting college campuses across the country, the investments are necessary to remain competitive, Moos said.
Even with the Southside Project, Martin Stadium is still the smallest stadium in the Pac-12. The West End-Zone Project, which is still in the beginning phases, will feature new practice and training facilities and coaches’ offices.
The way Moos tells it, the Martin Stadium upgrades and hiring were not an option — they were necessary.
“It follows the blueprint that we’ve put in place of moving this program forward and making sure that Cougar athletics is competitive and respected in the Pac-12,” Moos said.
Moos was pushed from the athletic director job at the University of Oregon after plans for a new basketball arena fizzled out. The new arena and baseball stadium in Eugene are named after his successor, Pat Kilkenny, who lasted just long enough at UO to see the construction.
UO also went through $90-million football stadium upgrades more than a decade ago, expanding Autzen Stadium. The stadium has often been ranked among the best in the country.
The University of Washington is also undergoing a $250-million full stadium renovation.
“It’s been my experience that facilities will attract good talent and develop them once they’re here, and also to serve as a source of pride when they’re done right for alumni and friends to return to campus,” Moos said.
Andrei Lintz, redshirt senior wide receiver, said the upgrades are “freaking amazing.”
Lintz said the upgrades and the investments made by the Athletic Department are keeping the Cougs motivated on the field.
“It makes us want to compete more, and show them that we’re worth it,” Lintz said.
The new stadium features about 2,100 new seats — and they’re being filled. All 43 loge boxes and the 21 suites have been sold, and about 800 of about 1,100 club seats were filled. As of press time, fewer than 500 seats remained for Saturday’s game.
Donations are up as well.
About $16 million was donated to the program overall last year, which includes the largest donation in Cougar football history — a $3-million donation from WSU alumnus Greg Rankich, the CEO of Xtreme Consulting Group, Inc.
“I think long term the program is heading in the right direction, making investments in the stadium, the coaches, the program in general, which will make us definitely competitive at the Pac-12 level,” said Rankich, who received his bachelor’s in 1994 and his Master of Business Administration in 1995.
But the excitement extends beyond the field, said John Johnson, a senior athletics director.
“I think it’s made a statement to the country that we’re serious, that we’re investing in our facilities and more importantly we’re creating the opportunity for our fans to have a great game day experience,” Johnson said.
More activities will be taking place this weekend to celebrate the game. Rogers Field will host Cougar Mania, the corporate tent, Cougville, a play area for fans to take their children and the Cougar Den under the Martin Stadium scoreboard.
“Any good team is a partnership between players and the fans,” said Head Coach Mike Leach about the upgrades to the program, “and anytime you have that it’s great for everybody.”
Code for the best
Moos is in his office, looking at carpet samples.
It will be a bit more than $2,000 to recarpet the whole office, and a bit less than $80 million to renovate a stadium.
He’s visited facilities at Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Louisiana State. He’s seen the samples, and he knew what he wanted.
For Moos, ‘right’ is code for ‘the best.’