Athletics renovations begin phase one

Hanson Lee, Sports Editor

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Phase one of the Wildcat Commons Project is currently underway. This project involves numerous renovations to CWU’s Tomlinson Stadium, as well as a recreation expansion which will involve the installment of a brand new NCAA track and field venue.

Renovations for Tomlinson Stadium will include a brand new synthetic turf football field, LED stadium lighting, an alumni plaza, renovated restrooms, a brand new three-window ticket booth area, upgrades to the north ticket booth, a renovated gateway entrance, a south wildcat plaza which will serve as CWU Football’s entrance for home games, and upgraded fencing.

The recreation expansion will take place on a separate field across the street from Tomlinson Stadium near the southeast corner of Wildcat Way and 18th and will include the construction of a brand new NCAA regulated track and field venue.

The brand new track and field venue will include a non-synthetic turf area for javelin and other throwing events. The expansion will also feature a synthetic turf infield that will be open to club sports, intramurals and recreational activities in addition to the track and field team at CWU.

Scott Carlson, project manager for phase one of the Wildcat Commons Project, said that they are planning on having phase one out to bid by April 10 and are expecting to open bids on May 3.

Carlson said that if the timeline goes as planned, a contract will hopefully awarded by May 23, which will allow for construction to begin after commencement on June 11.

Even though the Tomlinson Stadium renovations and the recreation expansion involve changes to two separate venues, these projects are tied together in terms of construction, but not funding. Carlson said that phase one of the Wildcat Commons Project will be managed under one general contractor.

CWU’s Athletic Director Dennis Francois expects phase one to not only have a positive impact on the athletic program, but to have a positive impact on the university as a whole. Francois said that the renovations being made to Tomlinson Stadium as well as the recreation expansion will open up the opportunity for CWU to host more sporting events and expose the university to a whole new market of people.

“It’s a win-win all the way around,” Francois said. “It’s a game-changer for our student athletes and their experience here at Central.”

Francois added that the recreation expansion, involving the construction of the brand new track and field venue away from Tomlinson Stadium, has to do with needing to make the football field regulation size for both the soccer and rugby programs at CWU.

The recreation expansion is being funded separately from the Tomlinson Stadium renovations. With a $6 million budget, two-thirds is being funded by CWU’s SURC Reserves and the other third is being funded by CWU’s Auxiliary Services. Auxiliary Services includes self-supported units on campus such as housing, dining and the Wildcat Shop.  

The Tomlinson Stadium portion of the renovations, which is being funded separately from the recreation expansion, is all being fundraised through private donors and boosters by the University Foundation. The Tomlinson Stadium renovations have a budget of $4.4 million.   

Francois said that he anticipates the athletic department to assist in any remaining costs of the Tomlinson Stadium project after the funding has been completed.   

With the renovations to Tomlinson Stadium scheduled for completion on September 14, CWU Football will look to have some of the first action on their brand new turf field when they host Humboldt State the following day in their second home game on Sept 15.

Football head coach Ian Shoemaker expressed his excitement about the upcoming season and what the new stadium renovations will bring to the football program at CWU.

“The biggest effect that it’s going to have is on the crowd and the environment,” Shoemaker said. “Being able to have night games… guys can get out and do their hunting, hiking, biking, whatever they’re doing and still come to a ball game.”

The addition of LED lights as part of the renovations to Tomlinson Stadium should have a positive impact on the dynamic of gameday for CWU Football, as it pertains to night games. Shoemaker reiterated that when it comes to hosting night games in Ellensburg, this aspect of the football season won’t just benefit the football program, but it will benefit the student body at CWU as well.

The installation of a brand new artificial turf field is also expected to provide a more durable surface, which should enhance the aspect of playability. Shoemaker said that this is going to be especially applicable in the offseason during the winter time.

“A winter like we had this year with very little snow, we could’ve been on that field training,” Shoemaker said. “The playability of the surface is going to be a lot better and I think it’s going to be able to be used a lot more than it was used in the past.”

Another exciting aspect about the Tomlinson Stadium renovations is the effect that the upgraded venue will have on future recruiting classes for CWU’s football program.

With many of the big time college football programs across the country having switched over to turf, Shoemaker emphasized that the incorporation of a turf playing field is vital and should have an impact on future recruiting classes moving forward.

“On the west side of the state, where we recruit most of our kids, the expectation is to have turf,” Shoemaker said. “I think it will be a positive for us in the recruiting process.”