November 9, 2013 in Sports

Temporary bleachers offer proof of EWU’s success

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The temporary bleachers at the south end of Roos Field aren’t so temporary this year.

Installed before the Weber State game on Oct. 5, they won’t come down until the home football season ends at Eastern Washington – whenever that is.

The bleachers aren’t much to look at, but they’re emblematic of Eastern Washington’s success on and off the field. And they’re a necessity, thanks to Eastern averaging 8,739 fans a game at a facility that holds just 8,600.

More impressive, those numbers have come against the likes of Western Oregon, Weber State and Southern Utah.

“All of that is outstanding, not having played a team from Montana,” said Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves, who has another sellout on his hands today against Montana State.

“It’s awesome,” said Eastern center Ashton Miller, a fifth-year senior. “I’ve been able to see a transition since I came here in 2009, where we were never selling out unless it was Montana.

“Now we have such a great fan base.”

While Chaves credits the Eastern marketing department, he reserves most of the credit for the product on the field.

“Having a program that has a very good chance to win every time out helps tremendously, and the students are coming out in droves,” Chaves said, also crediting the six high-profile FCS playoff games played at Roos Field in the past three years.

It also doesn’t hurt that EWU quarterback Vernon Adams is one of the most exciting players in the Football Championship Subdivision.

The numbers still don’t approach those at Montana, which averages almost 26,000 fans, or Montana State, with almost 20,000, but those schools merely had a head start, Chaves said.

Chaves said he’s charted average attendance at Montana, which he said averaged about 6,000 until winning the I-AA (now FCS) national title in 1995.

“And they just kept on going,” Chaves said.

It’s unclear whether higher attendance will boost the chances for construction of the Gateway Project, a multiuse athletic/commercial proposal that would boost capacity to roughly 17,000.

Fundraising efforts are still ongoing, university officials said recently.

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