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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Stadium upgrade in works

PULLMAN – A slow drive on Stadium Way alongside Martin Stadium will make it quite obvious to the seasoned onlooker that some major changes are taking place in the home of Washington State football.

Apparently, the changes won’t be difficult to notice in the fall, either.

“Hot water and heat – it’s kind of crazy, I know,” joked John David Wicker, WSU’s director of facility and event operations, as he led a tour through a partially-finished restroom on the north concourse.

According to Wicker, who has been involved with the stadium’s renovation since the earliest planning stages, the school remains on track and on budget to complete portions of Phase I and Phase II construction before the 2007 football season.

That means, as that tour displayed, a widened concourse on the north side, opposite the press box. It means a new student gate in the northwest corner, with similar brick and wrought iron gates to follow around other parts of the stadium in 2008.

Additional restrooms should be ready on the south concourse, and with the widening of the north concourse the number of restrooms and concessions will approximately double.

“Right now we’re right where we want to be on this side of the stadium,” Wicker said while still on the north concourse. “Nothing in the east end zone will be ready for the season. We’re focusing on this concourse.”

What changes WSU does not tackle this summer – the east end zone entryway, further renovations to south concourse restrooms, the construction of a new ticket office just beyond the northeast corner of Martin Stadium – will be complete by the first game in 2008, Wicker said.

“We will continue to work throughout the football season and through the winter and the next summer finishing the east end zone as well as finishing work on the southwest restrooms,” he added.

And with that, the first two phases of the long-awaited renovation to the smallest stadium in the Pac-10 will be complete. The funding for these two phases, totaling about $24 million, is already secure. But the millions to fund Phase III and Phase IV have not yet been raised.

As such, WSU decided to renovate Martin Stadium by making changes that the majority of fans will enjoy first.

“When the entire project’s finished in 2008, it’s going to touch every fan as opposed to, you see some folks building premium areas and there are a few people that benefit,” Wicker said, underscoring that point.

Privately, though, the athletic department hopes that those renovations will spur fans to donate money for work on the latter phases, which would first build luxury boxes and club seats above the current north stands. While those changes would probably be seen by relatively few fans, they would in the long run generate much more revenue for the school.

(Phase IV, should it take place in the coming years, would build an upper deck above the east end zone that would potentially add seating options for many fans.)

For the time being, though, those involved with the renovation seem pleased that a number of steps taken already have come without significant setbacks and on schedule.

And they hope that fans feel the same way in September.

“I think the north concourse and the northeast corridor are really going to stand out,” Wicker said. “It’s basically double the size, and all of the sudden it’s just like, wow, this is really going to be a lot bigger. There’s just going to be a lot more room.”