Gateway Project gains momentum
Big changes on the horizon to revamp stadium and facilities at Roos Field
The schematic design phase of the privately funded Gateway Project is now complete following two presentations last month to the board of trustees and the EWU Foundation Board of Directors, both of which will have final say in formally approving the project.
“We were able to have the schematic design phase fully funded with private dollars,” said Mike Westfall, vice president for University Affairs.
“The next phase for us is to identify lead gift funders that will commit to funding this project if and when the two boards approve this project to continue.”
The schematic design phase focused on defining the project, providing blueprints and illustrations of its design, recognizing the programs it will serve and its impact on campus and finally establishing how much it will cost.
The $60 to $70 million-dollar plan will revamp the stadium at Roos Field while creating a facility that generates revenue and enhances student services and campus culture.
“We felt if we were able to incorporate all three of those things then this is a project that would have a very broad impact across the whole university, from a recruiting retention standpoint, to athletic success, to academic success and finally making the campus more vibrant, particularly with the retail offerings,” Westfall said.
The proposed facility will house retail space along Washington Street, potentially including a restaurant, gear shop, medical center, pizza place, coffee shop and banks.
Washington Street will also receive a facelift, with on-street parking changing from parallel to back-in angled spots, added bike lanes and a safer pedestrian crosswalk.
The plan calls for adding 8,000 seats to the stadium, including club seating with a lounge area, loge seats, suites and a grassy berm area behind the southern end zone.
Other planned features include locker rooms for the band and mascot, an athletic training facility, a recruiting lounge and media interview room.
Some of those involved with the project visited similar facilities on the East Coast, including Appalachian State University, James Madison University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Liberty University to gather ideas for Eastern’s proposed project.
“The goal at the end of the day was to sort of take the best of what we saw and fit that into what our needs are here and get the scope just right,” Westfall said.
Appalachian State University, whose football team has won three championships, stuck out in particular because according to Westfall, “[They] were pretty much where we were ten years ago when they won their first championship. They didn’t have the facilities that they have today. It was the momentum from that that enabled them to build facilities that enhanced [their campus],” he said.
Westfall believes momentum is key to making this project a reality.
“We’ve had four consecutive years of record enrollment. That momentum allowed us to be able to go out and build a new residence hall,” he said. “The red turf I think created some momentum. We were fortuitous the football team won, and then we were able to leverage that into getting the new video boards. … Now the momentum of that, coupled with our attendance of games, coupled with the success of the football team, has increased interest to where we’re now at this juncture.”
This juncture includes raising the necessary funds to continue moving the project along.
“We have identified a number of individuals that have the potential to fund this,” Westfall said. “We are in the process of engaging them and sharing with them the vision for the project, the design to this point, and then we’ll go from there.”
Westfall said he believes both boards’ reactions to the plans were “supportive and positive, pending further information.”
Though funds still need to be secured and the project still needs to be formally approved, Westfall thinks the facility could benefit Eastern in many different ways.
“I firmly believe from an impact standup it’s much bigger than just athletics,” Westfall said. “I think that this really raises the profile of Eastern. It raises the profile of our athletic program without question, but it also raises the profile of our campus culture.”