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Keeping up With the Big Sky

EWU athletic department taking steps to keep pace with the rest of the schools in the conference

EWU+football%27s+Roos+Field+ranks+12+out+of+14+stadiums+in+the+Big+Sky+Conference+in+terms+of+seating+capacity
EWU football's Roos Field ranks 12 out of 14 stadiums in the Big Sky Conference in terms of seating capacity

EWU football's Roos Field ranks 12 out of 14 stadiums in the Big Sky Conference in terms of seating capacity

Brandon Cline for The Easterner

Brandon Cline for The Easterner

EWU football's Roos Field ranks 12 out of 14 stadiums in the Big Sky Conference in terms of seating capacity

By Riley Baker, Staff Reporter

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EWU has been very competitive in the Big Sky Conference over the past decade. However, one thing the athletic department has not been able to keep up on is the quality of the facilities for the student athletes and fans.

Recently, the athletic department has begun taking steps to keep pace in the Big Sky. Earlier this month, the department received a $475,000 grant from the NCAA that will fund a remodel of the athletic pavilion, transforming it into a new student athlete success center that is scheduled to be finished by November of this year.

Now just last week, the department hired an outside consultant, Peter Smits of the Phoenix Philanthropy Group, “to help us prepare for a comprehensive campaign by assessing our current infrastructure and capacity,” according to EWU Chief of Staff Angela Jones.

Both the University of Montana and Montana State University of the Big Sky Conference are currently advancing their athletic facilities. EWU’s Roos Field hasn’t seen a renovation since the video scoreboard was installed in 2012. With a seating capacity of 8,600, Roos Field ranks 12th out of 14 among Big Sky Conference football stadiums and is in need of another renovation.

“I think we’re infrastructurally challenged on game day,” said athletic director Bill Chaves. “Our demand at this point has exceeded our ability to really do a great job with our patrons that are coming. I think we do as good a job as we can.”

With the grant improving the academic facet for student athletes, Smits will help explore options for further improvements to the athletic facilities.

“Smits and his team will help us to determine what we need in place to successfully garner support for any necessary renovations,” Jones said.

His team will conduct two phases of work. Phase one began Tuesday, May 30 and involves four months of assessment that is scheduled to be completed by the end of August.

Jones said they will be gauging the department’s performance in fundraising, communications and strategies for the entire university and the operational infrastructure of the university as a whole.

Once that phase is completed, phase two will be geared toward helping the athletic department implement any new strategies or recommendations found from phase one, and it has an estimated completion of April 2018.

As far as tending to the fans on game day, while the department does the best they can, they could do better with renovated stadiums and facilities. With the help of Smits’ team, they may be able to do just that.

“This is an important first step in getting the campus and the community to focus on investing private support in all our programs, including athletics, in the coming years,” said Jones. “While EWU naturally wants to remain competitive in the Big Sky, renovation discussions related to the athletics facilities have been occurring for some time.”

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Keeping up With the Big Sky