PULLMAN — The RVs pulled into town Thursday, the customary time of arrival before a Washington State home football game.
That much hasn’t changed. But plenty in and around Martin Stadium has transformed since the Cougars last played there in November, with signs of WSU’s facilities upgrades nearly everywhere you turn.
The Cougars (1-1, 1-0 Pac-12) play host to Southern Utah (2-0) in a 3:30 p.m. nonconference game Saturday.
The largest of the stadium’s additions — and the most obstructive as far as game days are concerned — is the construction in the stadium’s west end of a $61 million football operations building, which is scheduled to be completed about eight months from now. It began as a large hole in the ground after the demolition of the Hollingberry Annex and the removal of several dozen dump trucks’ worth of dirt.
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It’s since been shaped into a fairly impressive framework, and workers currently are completing the framing of the fifth (top) floor. A massive crane that required approval from the Federal Aviation Administration still sits in the middle of it all.
Then there are the new scoreboards. The old, primary board is gone and a new one has been constructed in the east end of the stadium. Twice the size of the previous scoreboard, this one features an LED, HD display, and is accompanied by a pair of smaller ribbon boards beneath it.
A longer LED ribbon board also has been added to the facade of the premium seating structure on the south side of the stadium. And the sound system, which has been tested frequently throughout the week, will be a noticeable upgrade from the old one.
That much, the spectators will enjoy.
WSU and coach Mike Leach are focused elsewhere — such as Southern Utah’s running game, and the pursuit of a 2-1 start to the season after a close defeat at Auburn two weeks ago and the 10-7 victory at USC last weekend.
“It’s very exciting, just coming back for our fans. There’s no other feeling than being a Coug,” said senior defensive tackle Ioane Gauta. “We’re excited for this home game.”
Gauta and others were impressed by the showing of 50 or so fans who gathered outside the Bohler athletic complex just before 4 a.m. Sunday to welcome the team buses back after WSU’s victory over USC last weekend.
“There was a flag at the airport when we landed,” Leach said. “I heard it was pretty exciting around here. They said College Hill was really roaring, and somebody a hill or two over said they could hear all the yelling on College Hill. It had to be a lot of fun to be a part of.”
They hope the same can be said Saturday after the Cougars get to play at home.