When Central Washington University athletic director Dennis Francois heard the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association announced it was moving the high school football state championships away from the Tacoma Dome, he was quick to send WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese a text.

Francois conveyed to Colbrese that CWU is definitely interested to host at Tomlinson Stadium.

“We definitely hope that we will be in consideration as a viable site,” Francois said. “… It’d be great to be able to host some rounds leading up to it and a championship in a particular class.”

The WIAA executive board voted last Sunday that it would not renew its contract with the Tacoma Dome as the site for all six classification state championships, that’s hosted the championship games since 1995. The cost was one of the main factors in their decree.

“The Tacoma community and the Tacoma Dome have been great hosts for many WIAA State Championships over the years,” said WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese in a release. “They will continue to provide an exceptional experience for the WIAA Mat Classic and Hardwood Classic events.

“Ultimately, the Executive Board needed to evaluate whether holding the Gridiron Classic in the Tacoma Dome made sense for the association, student-participants and fans. Costs of renting the facility have continued to increase and WIAA staff received criticisms regarding the new seating arrangement for football.”

The WIAA is now in the process of finding three sites to host and have a few things in mind when considering a potential stadium.

“Our initial goal would to be to find three stadiums that are somewhat close to each other that would have covered seating on both sides and adequate locker space,” said Colbrese, who’s retiring in August. “But we also know that there are going to be east side teams who probably make it. So, if there are two east side teams, say like closer to Ellensburg or closer to Tri-Cities, or closer to Spokane, they might not all be within that same geographic area.”

Tomlinson Stadium has one side and is uncovered. Is that a predicament?

“I don’t think it’s that big an issue,” Colbrese said. “… It just depends on who it is and where they’re located. Central obviously has got plenty of seating on that one side, it’s an artificial surface, they’re set up for big games.”

DOUBLEHEADER?

Colbrese said there’s also the possibility that there could be two games at a specific site, but it depends on what classifications. They wouldn’t have a 3A and 4A be at the same field because of the size of the schools and the difficulty of having teams move in and out after the first game completes.

CWU is an ideal spot being in the central region of the state. It wouldn’t make sense, for example, a Spokane team to travel all the way to Seattle or vice versa.

CWU provides plenty of parking and both the school and community are feasible to navigate around. And if a 4,000 seating capacity isn’t enough, Francois can fix that.

“We brought in 500 portables last year for our football season, and we can increase that dramatically if we need to meet the seating specs,” he said.

This was always in the works for Central with the Wildcat Commons project to renovate Tomlinson Stadium and add its new track and field facility to be able to organize other outside events.

CWU recently hosted the Central Washington Athletic Conference high school regional track and field meet, and in the coming years, it will host the Great Northwest Conference collegiate outdoor track and field championships.

“Our community greatly benefits from that,” Francois said. “You have people coming in eating at restaurants, staying in hotels and getting gas, going into shops, that’s what we talked about five years ago.”

It’s of interest for the community and CWU as far as revenue, but also to recruit from an athletic and academic standpoint.

“The impact it’s going to have for us to recruit the brightest and best student-athletes as well as coaches,” Francois added. “They want to be able to go to a place where they feel they have an opportunity to win and recruit, recruit those types of kids, and facilities are a huge part of that.

“And of course, the impact it has on our university. You have these high school student-athletes that are on our campus, competing in our facilities, eating at our dining services and just kind of walking around campus. Because they’re here for a state meet or district meet or regional meet, some of those kids probably wouldn’t step foot on our campus if it wasn’t for that.”

According to Colbrese, sites will most likely be notified on semifinal weekend to see if they would be available to host depending on the championship matchups.

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