TV snag won't derail WSU's football complex

Side view looking north

PULLMAN -- Stalled negotiations between the Pac-12 Conference and the country's largest satellite provider won't delay the most dramatic renovation in Martin Stadium's 40-year history. WSU athletic director Bill Moos will present his proposal for a $60 million-to-$80 million football-only operations complex to the Board of Regents in Spokane next month.

The new facility is the next phase of the university's massive overhaul of Martin Stadium. Following on the heels of the newly opened press box and club seating areas, the football complex would span the west end zone with a multi-story structure housing coaches offices, a locker room, a weight room, meeting rooms and more. Total square footage is expected to approach about 80,000.

Moos said he's waited to take his final pitch to the board of regents -- something he originally planned to do earlier this month -- in order to determine where matters stood in the Pac-12 Networks' negotiations with DirecTV.

Despite months of talks, the two sides have failed to reach agreement for DirecTV to carry the Pac-12 Networks. That has revenue implications for every school in the Pac-12. The extent, however, has not been made public.

The Pac-12 has already agreed to a 12-year, $3-billion deal with ESPN and Fox, which will provide about $15 million annually to WSU athletics. The Pac-12 has also agreed to a contract with cable providers, but negotiations with DirecTV have devolved to the point DirecTV is now telling customers the Pac-12 is being unreasonable.

Moos said the stalled negotiations won't halt his plans to build the new facility.

"I didn't want to present the football operations building to the regents -- and the president agreed with me -- until we had a better feel for what our revenue stream would be from the Pac-12 Network," Moos said.

The new football-only operations facility could cost up to $80 million.

"The premium seating area that we just opened on Saturday -- it's net profit for us is about $3.2 million when all the seats are filled," he said. "And by no coincidence that's just about what the bond payment is for the $80 million."

If approved by the regent, construction on the project will begin immediately after the Apple Cup this November.

Moos, however, voiced his displeasure with DirecTV.

"It seems a little bit insulting that here we have the Big-10 Network offered on DirecTV in our footprint, but yet the Pac-12 Network isn't," he said. "That's a little bit insulting that a viewer, in their minds, would rather watch Minnesota and Indiana than Washington State and USC so we'll see where it goes."

DirecTV recently released a statement to the Murrow News Service about the negotiations.

"If the Pac-12 would allow us to make their networks available only to those customers who want to pay for it, the channel would have already been on," DirecTV spokesperson Robert Mercer said. "But, as it stands now, the price is much too high to accept their demand that we make it available to all customers, some of whom will have to take on this unnecessary cost for a channel they don't want."

The Pac-12 and DISH, the second-largest satellite provider, agreed on a deal earlier this month. The deal adds the Pac-12 Networks to every DISH household in the six states where conference schools are located, and as an additional sports package for the rest of the country. Details of the agreement were not released to the public.

The Pac-12 Networks are now carried by four of the five major cable network providers, which also include Time Warner Cable, Comcast Xfinity, and Cox.


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