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Since its inception in 1894, Washington State University students, fans, and alumni have paid witness to over a century of greatness when it comes to the football program.
Cougar football has had its share of renowned coaches such as William H. "Lonestar" Dietz, Orin E. "Babe" Hollingberry, and Mike Price. Additionally, the program has produced a phenomenal number of legends when it comes to playing the game. A small sampling of these players include: Glen "Turk" Edwards, Mel Hein, Jack Thompson, Mark Rypien, Rueben Mayes, Mike Utley, Drew Bledsoe, Jason Hanson, Ryan Leaf and Jason Gesser.
However, Cougar fans will probably say it's not only the vast number of great coaches and players who have made Cougar football unforgettable, but also the memories of where the games were played: Martin Stadium. Just as the great coaches and players of the gridiron program have changed so has Martin Stadium.
The history of the stadium dates back to 1892, when it was built and named Soldier Field. The first football game at the stadium took place, Nov. 9, 1895 when WSU defeated Idaho 10-4.
In 1902, Soldier Field was renamed Rogers Field in honor of the governor of the state of Washington, John R. Rogers.
WSU, then named Washington State College, built a completely new football stadium in 1936, but retained the same name. The new stadium was an all-wood structure built on concrete pilings. The field also featured new stands, an enlarged press box and an electronic scoreboard.
Thirty-four years later (April 4, 1970) fire destroyed the south stands (about 6,000 seats) and the press box. For the next two seasons, WSU called Spokane's Joe Albi Stadium home.
In the interim, a one-million dollar fund drive began after the decision was made to rebuild the stands rather than relocate or build an entirely new stadium. WSU launched a two-phase renovation plan that created a two-tiered structure that held 17,500, replacing the old seating capacity of 10,000 and increasing the total seating capacity to 30,000. Dan Martin, a Los Angeles businessman, gave $250,000 to the project with the stipulation the stadium be renamed after his father, Clarence D. Martin, governor of Washington state from 1933-40.
In the summer of 1972, artificial turf (Astroturf) was installed and the Cougars returned to action in Pullman for the first time in two years when WSU met Utah in the refurbished Martin Stadium, Sept. 30.
Renovations continued throughout the '70s as new north (student) stands were built in 1975. In the fall of 1978 work began on the south-side academic portion of the complex with the computer center relocating to the facility upon completion of the project in 1979.
At that time, the seating capacity of the stadium stood at 26,500, the smallest of any Pac-10 school.
Then director of athletics Sam Jankovich described Martin Stadium as a "football stadium too small to accommodate the crowds needed to draw in the Pacific-10 Conference." Jankovich pointed out that a new Pac-10 rule requiring guarantees of $25,000 to the visiting team made it difficult, if not impossible, to meet that requirement with the current seating capacity.
According to Jankovich, Martin Stadium only offered a few quality seats to sell to fans because of two reasons. The first reason was simply too few seats in the stadium. Students were using one side of the seating capacity, which left WSU the other half of seating to sell to fans. Secondly, the first six rows of the stadium were almost impossible to sell as patrons received a view of the players' backs rather than the action on the field.
Jankovich went on to say that most of the prime seats were already sold or committed through the previous stadium expansion project in 1971. That meant there was no seating for potential large donors, and there were few good seats to offer to new season ticket holders.
In short, said Jankovich, WSU was having a difficult time selling football tickets in advance because there just were not good seats available that people wanted.
To rectify the situation, Jankovich spearheaded an effort to expand Martin Stadium's seating capacity to nearly 40,000. This was done by lowering the playing field by 16 feet and extending the sloped seating areas closer to the field. It marked the first time a collegiate football stadium had been enlarged by digging down rather than building up.
The project was funded through contributions, gift-in-kind and the purchase of "stadium builder'' seat options. The project was also funded in part by the Martin family, with Charlotte Martin, widow of Dan Martin, giving $250,000 to the project. A SuperTurf artificial surface was also installed
The Cougars christened the revamped Martin Stadium with a 17-14 win over UCLA, Oct. 13, 1979.
Since 1979, the playing surface has been replaced twice. In the summer of 1990 a sand-filled Omni-Turf playing surface was installed. A decade later, FieldTurf was installed.
On November 18, 2011, the WSU Board of Regents approved an $80 million project to add premium suites and club seats to Martin Stadium. The Cougar Football Project will be privately funded through donations, premium seating revenue and increased revenue from the recently complete Pac-12 television contract, which goes into effect beginning with the 2012-13 academic year.
The Washington State University Board of Regents gave approval on November 16, 2012 for a $61 million football operation building to be constructed. The construction process began on November 25 with completion in June, 2014.
The completed football operations building is approximately 75,000 square-foot that enhances the everyday experience of current Cougar student-athletes while providing a centerpiece for WSU to use in recruiting future Cougar stars. The operations building finally puts the WSU football program on a level playing field with its Pac-12 brethren in terms of facilities.
Featured in the building are spacious locker, training and weight rooms for Cougar players as well as an expansive new equipment room. Additionally, the operations building houses first-class coaches’ offices, meeting rooms and a recruiting room. A WSU Football heritage area is also showcased and open to the public.