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$5M gift gets EWU off to a strong start in Roos Field renovation plan

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 20, 2019, 1:18 p.m.

EWU staff and supporters check out renderings of EWU's donor-funded Stadium Renovation Project on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Cheney, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
EWU staff and supporters check out renderings of EWU's donor-funded Stadium Renovation Project on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Cheney, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The largest individual donation in Eastern Washington University history has given an early boost to the university’s ambitious plan to raise $25 million for renovations of Roos Field.

The $5 million gift comes from Jack Gillingham, a Cheney resident who owns numerous West Plains businesses.

“This gift is a statement to and for the community to get behind this project, which can be a catalyst for the local economy,” Gillingham said in a statement. “It’s a rallying cry for current and future supporters to get involved and make this a reality.”

On Sept. 6, the university’s board of trustees approved the $25 million plan to renovate the 52-year-old stadium with private dollars. The university is prohibited from using state funding or student fees to enhance athletic facilities, so they cannot be used for the stadium project.

The number of seats at Roos won’t grow from 8,612, but “fans will enjoy better seats and improved sight lines, with more seatback chairs, covered club level seating and private loge box seating,” according to a statement from EWU.

More restrooms and concession stands will be added, and the running track will be removed. The renovation will begin once the funds are raised, but the university did not estimate when that would happen. It said that the next 18 to 24 months are “critical fundraising months.”

The red turf will be replaced – thanks to Gillingham’s gift – before the beginning of the 2020 football season. The turf will remain its bright and iconic hue. Replacing it costs $1.3 million.

The renovated stadium will not be named for Gillingham, but the university is considering how to “thoughtfully recognize his generous contribution,” the statement read. The field is named for Michael Roos, an Eastern alum who played in the NFL for the Tennessee Titans from 2005 to 2014, and the university said it may be renamed and noted that “naming rights are still available.”

Gillingham said he was motivated to donate the money because of the “vision and the team (Athletic Director) Lynn Hickey has put together to move the Eastern athletic department further into greatness.”

The Eagles were the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision national champions in 2010. The team, which plays in the Big Sky Conference, finished last season ranked second in the country after losing to North Dakota State in the national championship game in Frisco, Texas.

Gillingham owns American Onsite Services, Barr-Tech and Northwest Industrial Services. Over the years, he has partnered with John, Larry and Ted Condon, brothers of Spokane Mayor David Condon.

Barr-Tech was founded in 2009 by Gillingham, Ted Condon and Scott Barr, a Republican legislator who served in the state House from 1977 to 1983 and state Senate from 1983 to 1993 and who died in 2015. The company owns and runs a 40-acre composting facility in Lincoln County that it built in 2010 for $14 million. It has capacity to compost 230,000 tons of material a year.

American Onsite Services rents out construction job-site equipment. Northwest Industrial Services rents portable restrooms, fencing, storage containers and roll-off dumpsters.

Gillingham also owns Gillingham Sand and Gravel.

Editor’s note: This article was changed on Sept. 20 to accurately reflect Jack Gillingham’s sole ownership of Gillingham Sand and Gravel.

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