Mike Leach walks into the new Cougar Football Complex towering between the west end zone of Martin Stadium and Rogers Practice Field for a final tour in May before the program moves in. Looking up, the head coach says, “Where did you get the four-story football player?”
The tour’s leader, WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos ’73, laughs. A huge image of a Cougar football player stretches from the bottom of the open staircase to the top level of the new building. The figure will be even more visible when it’s lit up at night, he says.
It’s a grand entrance for the newest athletic building, a home for Cougar football players, coaches, staff, and former team members, as well as a place for students, alumni, and fans to experience the history of WSU football as they traverse the north side of the building on a walkway connecting the gyms and residence halls to the CUB and the classroom buildings.
“It’s in the middle of campus and that’s what is unique about Martin Stadium and our athletic facilities,” says John Johnson, senior associate director of athletics in charge of facilities. “Every day, students will walk back and forth along the heritage hallway. It will have photos of famous players and audio talking about the great moments of Cougar football.”
The $61 million structure was funded with a combination of money saved in the remodeling of the south side of the stadium in 2012 and $46 million in general revenue bonds, covered entirely by payments from the Pac-12 television contract. It took 18 months to complete.
Inside the ground floor, the expansive locker room stretches across the building. Leach walks in the wide spaces between the vented lockers, stepping over a large Cougar logo on the carpet. Leach says he has seen a lot of locker rooms in his 25 years of coaching, but “we’re going to have the best locker room in the conference and very possibly the best locker room in the country.”
Johnson points to the many Cougar touches in the room. “In all our facilities we have the fight song somewhere. Here you can see it above the lockers,” he says.
A large garage-style door opens straight onto the field at Martin Stadium, and players will pour out of it at the start of the games.
Upstairs, the tour group enters a weight training room that spans almost the entire length of the building. Windows face Rogers Field to the west and Martin Stadium to the east, providing natural light and views to inspire. The floor floats on large springs, which will keep noise muffled if heavy objects, like barbells, are dropped.
The next level holds a large physical rehabilitation room with massage tables (sporting Cougar logos, of course). Off to one side sit hydrotherapy pools and the other side leads to two medical examination rooms.
The tour follows Moos into the large classroom on the next floor, where stadium seating embroidered with Cougar head logos face whiteboards and a large sound system. Leach sits in one of the larger seats in the front, custom-built to suit a 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman. He stretches out his legs and says he wishes airplanes had this kind of room.
Meeting rooms for each position on the team, outfitted with giant murals of outstanding Cougar football players at those positions, fill the rest of that floor.
On the fourth floor, Moos leads the way into the “Legends Lounge,” a dining room for student athletes and former Cougar letterwinners. The room can seat 130 for a meal and hold 150 on game days.
Moos emphasizes the significance of a good diet for the athletes, a personal interest of his, and says that the kitchen, dining lounge, and chefs will fill that need.
A mural on one long wall shows every first-team All-American football player in school history, from 1930 teammates Glen “Turk” Edwards, Mel Hein, and Harold Ahlskog, to the most recent All-American and first-round NFL draft pick, safety Deone Bucannon.
“We spent a lot of time on the design of this mural. We looked at 2,000 photos, with tons of help from Mark O’English in Manuscripts and Archives,” says Johnson.
The coaches’ offices and locker room, staff offices, and areas to meet recruits fill out the top level with great views of Martin Stadium and campus. Moos and Leach look out on the field and reflect on the new facility.
“This building is going to be fabulous for football and allows us to get more elbow room in Bohler Gym for other programs,” says Moos. “It goes without saying the advantages we have for recruiting. This will attract, and already has attracted, players.”
Video: A tour of the Cougar Football Complex – From the locker room to the Head Coach’s Office, follow Mike Leach on a tour through the Cougar football complex.