October 25, 2011 in Sports

South side of Martin Stadium renovation given priority

By Correspondent

PULLMAN – Washington State University’s regents were briefed Tuesday on the possible expansion of Martin Stadium, a project now being presented as two separate ventures.

The regents will be asked at their meeting Nov. 18 to approve a plan to construct a three-story press box and premium-seating facility on the south side of Martin Stadium, to be built above the current concourse and stretching from end zone to end zone.

A planned football operations building behind the west end zone, previously tied in with the south-side project, will not be presented for the regents’ approval until sometime in 2012.

If the south-side plan is approved, demolition of the old press box and construction of the new facility will begin Nov. 21, two days after the Cougars finish the home portion of the football season.

Tuesday’s meeting was mainly to inform the regents of the current financing plan for the $80 million project, which will use the athletic department’s increased television money to pay off bonds issued by the university.

“In terms of the utilization of the television revenues, this is our highest priority,” WSU president Elson S. Floyd told the regents, some in Pullman but most joining the meeting via telephone or video conferencing.

The Pac-12 Conference recently reached a $3 billion agreement with ESPN and Fox Sports on a media contract that will supply each conference school an average of around $21 million a year over the next 12 years, though the yearly payout escalates through the course of the agreement.

Roger Patterson, WSU’s vice president for business and finance, presented a plan that would use an $80 million line of credit to finance construction of the south-side facility, saying he felt confident the facility would come in at or below that cost. By using the line of credit and bonding the project after it is completed, the university would save around $1.8 million in finance costs.

Only when the south-side facility was nearing completion and costs were fixed, would the football operations building re-enter the picture. By then, the design would be finished, a cost estimate would be established and a revenue stream from the south-side building identified. That is expected in the summer of 2012.

The press box portion on the third floor of the south-side facility would be completed in time for the start of the 2012 football season, with the suites, club boxes and loge seats below projected to be finished in time for the season-ending Apple Cup.

“In a perfect world, I would like to have seen the football operations building first,” athletic director Bill Moos said after the meeting. “Because of its ability to attract talent. In that formula, your talent gets better, your team gets better, your program gets stronger, you fill you seats, and then you have a supply and demand.”

But the premium seating facility announced for the north side of Martin Stadium in 2009 (then called Phase III) and since scrapped attracted donations that were at risk if the south-side facility wasn’t a priority, Moos said.

The new plan uses the television revenue to finance the seating, allowing the athletic department to raise additional funds for the operations building.

“It is important for our donors to understand the importance of embracing contributions to intercollegiate athletics,” Floyd told the regents. “And especially on the south side. What we are essentially doing is using the contributions they have made on the south side of the stadium, and then to deploy those resources toward the west end.”

If all 1,269 club seats, 42 loge boxes and 21 available suites are sold at current projected prices, $3.7 million annually of new revenue would be available to the athletic department.

That money, along with other sources, which could include the still-to-be determined amount raised by the Pac-12’s future television channel, would be used to finance the five-story football operations building.

Under the timeline proposed to the regents, which doesn’t call for a bond payment until 2013, Moos said he would use the estimated $5.2 million to $5.5 million available with the first part of the Pac-12 television money in 2012 to pay off existing athletic department debt, which he said was more than $5 million.

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