When Ian Shoemaker stepped onto the campus of Central Washington University for the first time, he looked out at Tomlinson Stadium.

The field was surrounded by an aging track, the natural grass was fairly worn and he noticed the opportunity for any night game later was impossible because there were no lights.

But after a promising interview process, he accepted the job when he heard the administration was going to make a dedication to improving the facility.

He knew all about Western Washington University dropping its football program in 1999 and knew even before that, Division II California schools had already folded the majority of their football programs. He was happy Central Washington University wasn’t a part of that trend.

“Those cuts are driven by administrations and not driven by the football players or coaches,” Shoemaker said. “This university and its administration is committed to athletics being that front porch. It’s not the only thing and not the most important thing, but it is part of it and we are going to put our best foot forward.”

Now, five years later, Shoemaker has done his part by bringing CWU into the limelight. And the administration has kept its promises, too.

His nationally ranked Wildcats will take the next step in the program’s history by christening a newly renovated stadium with artificial turf and lights.

“It’s such a huge upgrade from what we were dealing with before with the grass and not having the opportunity to have night games like some one of the other teams in our league have,” Shoemaker said. “We are excited and so proud of the boosters and administration went to bat for our program and this facility.”

A SIMPLE IDEA

Even before CWU Athletic Director Dennis Francois was hired, Central Washington University was looking at improving its athletic facilities.

One idea included an athletic facilities proposal at the front of campus, across University Avenue where the Grocery Outlet is now located, but it failed to gain much steam.

“It didn’t come to fruition,” Francois said. “There are great things tied to downtown, but the other part of that is all of a sudden you have to figure out parking, there are all sorts of traffic issues and getting the stadium expanded.”

After Francois arrived, the athletic department brought in an external firm to perform an evaluation of the entire department and discuss what deficiencies it may have.

The report included specifics about facilities in terms of condition and the overall access of shared facilities.

“There was no doubt the track was well beyond its life expectancy and the field is one of those things where you play five our six football games on it during a year, so the utility of it is nothing when you compare it to the time and energy to keep it maintained,” Francois said.

With university president James Guadino pushing forward a master plan to improve facilities all over campus, Francois came into help on the athletic side of things.

Finally a year ago, the Board of Trustees voted on a $10.4 million project not only renovating the 59-year-old Tomlinson Stadium, but also adding a separate track and field facility on the corner of Wildcat Way and 16th Avenue.

A MULTI-USE FACILITY

The four-month construction on both Tomlinson Stadium and the track and field complex started last June and included much more than just the addition of artificial turf and lights. New entry gates, renovated restrooms, a fan-friendly ticketing area and the updated Alumni Plaza that sits at the east end zone were all put in to make the fan experience much more enjoyable.

“The excitement of a night game and the new sight lines from the Alumni Plaza and the Wildcat Plaza are going to be much more convenient,” said Tyler Unsicker, CWU Associate Athletic Director of External Affairs.

Tomlinson Stadium’s artificial turf was also extended out to host other sports including soccer and rugby, and the Alumni Plaza was elevated six feet behind the east end zone to be used as a possible stage for other events.

“One of the things the president said during this whole process was we are only going to have one chance to do this, so let’s do it right,” Francois said. “People really realize the importance of this project and we want to make our facilities the best they can possibly be.”

DREAM BECOMES A REALiTY

As CWU’s football team started its fall training camp, its music was mixed with the various, cacophonous sounds of a construction site.

But the players didn’t mind. They used it as motivation.

“It was exciting, because we were all just all wanting to play in that first game on the turf,” said senior running back Christian Cummings. “I was just stoked.”

For Shoemaker, he looked over at Tomlinson Stadium and knew that promise of dedication was becoming a reality.

“We have a great product to sell to our recruits with the university, the majors, the growth and the town,” Shoemaker said. “We just added a great facility to that.”

With the stadium now in place, fans and the football team can rest easy. The trend for West Coast Division II football has been broken because the Wildcats aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“The athletic department really cares about us and everyone wants us to succeed,” Cummings said. “When I first came here as a freshman there was a vision of a turf field and now, in my senior year, here it is.”

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