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Originally published Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 3:24 PM

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Cougars are building new football operations complex

Washington State completed work last year on the south side of Martin Stadium, including new luxury suites. The football operations building currently under construction should be finished in May.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Martin Stadium

Opened: 1972

Previous: Rogers Field (1902-1970), Soldiers Field (1892-1902).

Current capacity: 33,522 (lowest in Pac-12)

Expansions: Track removed in 1979, premium seating added in 2012.

Did you know? Martin Stadium replaced Rogers Field, which was damaged by arson in 1970. The Cougars played at Albi Stadium in Spokane in 1970 and 1971. The first game at Martin Stadium was a 44-25 loss to Utah on Sept. 30, 1972.

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PULLMAN – When the Pac-12 Conference announced its blockbuster 12-year, $3 billion combined television deals with ESPN and Fox in May 2011, you could almost hear the grind of cement mixers and the clank of rebar on the league’s campuses.

Everywhere, seemingly, football-related buildings are springing up. Helmets aren’t the only hard hats around Pac-12 athletic departments.

Rising at the west end of Martin Stadium and due for opening next May is Washington State’s football operations complex, a $61 million edifice that gathers all WSU football functions under one umbrella and brings those elements into the 21st century.

The building is being backed by 30-year bonds and paid for with the proceeds of the league’s fully-shared TV contracts that took effect in 2012-13.

“Our fans have received my message that this is what we need if we’re going to be able to compete in the Pac-12,” says WSU athletic director Bill Moos. “We were way, way behind at a critical juncture. When we expanded the Pac-12, people were building like crazy, and we had to get ourselves in the game.”

Last year, WSU unveiled its new south-side complex, including luxury suites, club and loge boxes and a new press box. The fact that structure went up first isn’t typical of Moos’ playbook.

“The ideal plan would have been to build the football-operations building first,” Moos says. “My philosophy has always been, build the facilities that are going to attract and benefit the student-athlete. They light up the scoreboard and then you add your seats.”

But his predecessor, Jim Sterk, had already raised some $16 million for the seating project. When Moos arrived in 2010, he opted to “fulfill the commitment to the donors” but diverted that project from the north to the south side.

The second new building taking shape should both alleviate a space crunch inside Bohler Gym and centralize the football operation. The weight room, for instance, is currently shared by all WSU sports, unusual on a Division I campus.

Here’s the general layout of the 79,000-square-foot, five-story structure going up:

First floor — Locker rooms and equipment room.

Second — Weight room.

Third — Training room including hydrotherapy facility, sports-medicine headquarters and a “heritage” area recognizing the school’s football history.

Fourth — Auditorium, meeting rooms, a players lounge and training-table food service for all athletes.

Fifth — Coaches offices.

“It literally houses everything that has to do with football,” Moos says.

Second-year coach Mike Leach says a primary benefit of the facility will be simply the gathering of players and staff into a more concentrated area than Bohler, whose tentacles reach far and wide.

“Right now, to see somebody, you have to make an appointment or be incredibly lucky to happen to see them in the hall,” said Leach.

He expects to see an effect on camaraderie, saying, “It really binds a team together, when you’re automatically going to be around each other on a regular basis.” Leach adds that “the weight room is huge, and the locker room has everything from a barber chair to TVs and games, so they’re excited to be around each other and spend time before and after practice.”

Moos and senior staffers sharpened their concept of the building by visiting six facilities a few years ago in what was then mostly Big 12 country — Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and LSU. Moos had also assessed a couple of prominent sites in the Big Ten and SEC.

“We cherry-picked what we felt were the best features, both in the premium seating areas and the football-operations building,” he said.

Added late in the process was the on-site food service. Moos says the staff will include a nutritionist and a newly hired “European chef.”

“It’ll be gorgeous,” he said. “It’ll look like a Seattle restaurant.”

Because the facility was tucked into a relatively tight spot, accommodations had to be made to get materials and machinery in. WSU demolished what was known as the Hollingbery Annex adjoining Bohler and Hollingbery Fieldhouse, and that area will become a student plaza.

Meanwhile, there will be some inconveniences in 2013. As Moos says, “This is going to be a construction zone this fall.”

Pregame amenities normally available on the practice fields will be “condensed to about half,” Moos says, because of the construction staging area. Fans can reach south-side seats via the usual passageway, but students who normally enter at a northwest gate will go to a northeast gate by Stadium Way.

Moos uses the analogy of his sister getting braces on her teeth decades ago.

“My mother said, ‘Honey, you’re going to look a little awkward for a year,’ ’’ he said, “ ‘But the end result is going to be beautiful.’ ’’

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com


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