Washington State University dreamed and spent big on its new football operations building in the hope that the lavish facility will help the Cougars compete with their better-financed opponents.
The football team will eat, dress, lift weights, train and receive medical attention in the $61 million, five-story, 84,192-square-foot facility, which stands behind Martin Stadium’s west end zone.
“If we’re going to compete for championships, it’s going to be done right here,” proclaimed WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos while giving the media a tour of the nearly finished project.
The improvements are intended, in large part, to attract recruits. When Moos was the athletic director at Oregon he pioneered a facilities revolution, and the Ducks began to attract some of the most talented athletes in the country.
“We did the same stuff at Oregon, same blueprint. Parents fall in love with (WSU) because it’s clean, it’s safe, there are no freeways or drive-by shootings,” Moos said. “Well, if we could recruit the parents we’d be in the Rose Bowl every year, but the prospect is going, ‘Boy, this locker room isn’t as nice as Stanford’s, this weight room is nothing like Cal’s.’ Now we take a back seat to nobody.”
Football coach Mike Leach has an enormous corner office overlooking Martin Stadium on the top floor of the facility, complete with a bathroom and shower, kitchenette and conference room where he will conduct position meetings with the quarterbacks.
The building, which took 18 months to construct, cost just over $43 million, with taxes and furnishings pushing the total cost to near $61 million. It was designed by ALSC Architects, of Spokane.
The project was entirely financed through bonds, as was the recent addition of luxury seating at Martin Stadium and an upgrade to the press box. The debt service WSU will pay on those bonds is around $7 million a year, Moos said. The bonds also will pay for aesthetic upgrades to Martin Stadium, such as new field turf with the crimson end zones fans have long desired.
The Cougars are able to service those debts thanks to the Pac-12 television deal, now in its third year, which guarantees revenue split equally to each school. WSU athletics gets about $20 million a year.
Previously, the football team shared the facilities inside the Bohler Athletic Complex with the other WSU athletics programs. But in the new building the team will have its own dedicated weight room that is larger than the one previously shared by all Cougars sports.
“It’s really hard to believe unless you’ve really been a part of it, how much of a change this place has made,” linebacker Darryl Monroe said. “Where we are, from where we’ve come from, to where we’re going – it’s outrageous.”
While the football operations building will be almost entirely dedicated to the football program, other athletes will make use of the dining hall, which will be staffed by two chefs and a dozen other full-time employees.
The 6,528-square-foot training room will also be used by athletes from other sports, who will come to get their ankles taped as well as to use the underwater treadmill.
Everything in the brick, metal and glass building is designed for the comfort of abnormally large athletes. The 11,610-square-foot locker room is twice as large as the old one.
The extra space is necessary because of the deluxe size of the individual, ventilated lockers themselves, as well as the dedicated meeting space and a “plunge tub” in which the Cougars will take cold baths after games and practices.
“If I had seen that locker room (while being recruited), I would have committed on the spot,” quarterback Connor Halliday said.
The second floor is home to the weight room, which also hosts a nutrition and smoothie bar. The building’s third floor holds a hall of fame and trophy area that will be accessible to the public and students, who must walk by on their way to class.
A 163-seat auditorium on the fourth floor has chairs designed to hold a 330-pound offensive lineman with ease.
The individual features were inspired by trips Moos and his staff took to view similar structures at Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Louisiana State.
“We cherry-picked the best features from each of those facilities, and that’s why I can safely say this is one of the best facilities in the country,” Moos said.
There are 49 flat-screen TVs in the facility and luxurious meeting rooms and coaches’ offices that look into Martin Stadium through walls entirely made of glass.
“You just have everything at your fingertips,” Halliday said. “The only way for you to not be successful when you have a building like this – it’s your own fault. We are now given every possible tool we could ever need.”