Next Martin upgrade ready for take off?

PHASE III BACK ON?

THERE ARE NOTABLE rumblings that Jim Sterk may announce sooner rather than later that WSU is going full steam ahead with construction of the proposed Phase III portion of the Martin Stadium renovation. Given the difficult economic times in which we live, such a move would signal three things. First and foremost, that Sterk has brass cajones.

Second, that the WSU athletic director has faith the Cougar Nation will step up to the financial plate. And third, that the UW's ongoing plea to have the State Legislature fork over an unprecedented $150 million to rebuild Husky Stadium for them looks increasingly lame.

Contacted yesterday, Sterk wouldn't confirm nor deny that plans are gaining momentum but reiterated the mantra that has guided his thinking about Phase III since he put it on the shelf following the start of the credit crisis last fall: "We're absolutely going to get it done -- we have to get it done -- and we're continuing to work toward that goal."

The initial estimate on the cost of Phase III was $40 million-plus, but given the troubled economic times it's likely the price could be notably less.


SIDE-VIEW OF THE PLANNED PREMIUM SEATING TIER ON THE STUDENT SIDE OF THE STADIUM. Color renderings of the frontal view are at the bottom of this page.

Whenever the plan goes forward, WSU plans to finance it through a combination of donations, and advance sales of new luxury and premium seating that can be used to leverage the bond market.

Phases I and II of the Martin upgrade -- collectively costing about $27 million -- were launched in December 2006 and formally concluded last November with the unveiling of the giant bronzed statue, "Cougar Pride," near the Stadium Way entrance.

Phase III will add 2,200 luxury and other premium seats on the student side of the stadium. Those seats alone will generate the same amount of game-day revenue as the rest of the stadium combined.

Phase II was originally planned to get off the ground via revenue bonds leveraged from private donations and the advance sale of many of the premium seats and luxury boxes.

Sterk said last December the nation's credit meltdown dried up the bonding market, so the school turned to banks and more traditional financing sources. The response, both regionally and nationally, was the same: The money's not available right now.

Phase III -- and, ultimately, a Phase IV which would enclose the west endzone -- will allow WSU to keep pace with its Pac-10 counterparts, Sterk has said.

For information on the Martin Stadium fundraising campaign, or to make an advance purchase of premium seats, contact Dan Meyer in the athletic department at meyerd@wsu.edu or 509-335-0236.


ARTIST'S RENDERING OF WHAT PHASE III WILL LOOK LIKE WHEN COMPLETED. THIS IS THE STUDENT SIDE OF THE STADIUM AS VIEWED FROM STADIUM WAY.


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