Coach Tom Sawyer

A Q&A with Tom Sawyer

The WSU Stadium Renovation is one of three university-wide initiatives that are part of The Power of Experience – A Campaign for Winona State. Hear more about the stadium renovation and how it will impact students from WSU Head Football Coach Tom Sawyer.

In your experience, what is important to student athletes during the recruitment process?

The recruitment of student-athletes has changed significantly during my tenure at Winona State University. Today’s athletes focus on the quality of your facilities, the make-up of your team, the quality of the players recruited, the style of uniforms and the sponsorship associated with them. In addition, student-athletes are very astute in their desire to meet and get to know the coaching staff that they will spend the next 4-5 years with. Yet another determining factor at the Division II football level is the scholarship level offered to quality players. We are very proud of our program, our coaches, and our ability to offer competitive scholarships, along with the quality of education at WSU, the community and our proud heritage. However, we are falling behind our competitors when it comes to quality of facilities. Sometimes it’s the shiny penny!

How will the construction of the stadium impact your ability to recruit and attract top athletes to WSU?

The stadium has become the primary issue preventing us from recruiting some of the top players in our region. It is becoming increasingly challenging to compete with our peer schools in the NSIC as well as our region.  We are also now competing with FCS schools (NDSU, UNI, NIU, USD, SDSU), placing more significance on upgrading our facilities.

How does the WSU stadium compare to other universities we’re competing with during the recruitment process?

We are in the bottom 5% of our league and even worse in the region. As a result, we spend very little time at the stadium during the recruiting process and have to focus on the other positive benefits Winona State and the Winona Community and region.

There’s a new video board included in the renovation plans – why is this a critical component to the project?

It is necessary for recruitment, game day experience and additional revenue streams which will be created for our program. It has become the primary element in facility design to enhance the game day experience and a state-of-the-art atmosphere. Although the facility improvements are essential, the impact of the video board extends beyond the football game! We need to provide an atmosphere that attracts all types of fans – and fans come to games for many reasons outside of the football experience.

What amenities will be included in the design, and why are they important?

  • The South End Zone: The south decking will be a hub of activity for groups and alumni in a suite atmosphere, with elevated seating extremely close to the playing field, along with the video board.
  • Restrooms: With a single site for bathrooms currently at the stadium and numerous portable bathrooms, it has become an embarrassment to not provide modern bathrooms for our visitors and guests – and is a primary reason why some fans elect to not come to the stadium. Additional bathroom sites on the east and west end is essential to improving the game day experience.
  • Locker Rooms: The current locker rooms are very inadequate for both home and visitor teams with no improvements made since the stadium was built in the 1940s. Upgrading locker rooms for practice and the game day experience will be a tremendous benefit to our student-athletes as well as the Cotter football program that calls WSU Stadium their home as well.
  • Concessions: With a single venue in the north end zone, the current concession stand is very challenging to access. Additional venues on the east and west ends will provide increased food/beverage options for fans.
  • Warrior Apparel: Venues on the east and west ends will provide easier access for fans to purchase Warrior swag.
  • East End Seating: The home side of the field will provide seatback chairs for WSU fans and make the game much more enjoyable watch, while also increasing seating capacity.
  • West End Seating: The visitor side of the field will provide additional bleacher-style seats for visitors/guests, as well as overflow for Warrior spectators.
  • The North End Zone: The redesign will complete the bowl effect and increase seating capacity for our students and provide a home for our band on game day!

What accessibility issues do fans experience at the current stadium, and how will the renovation fix those issues?

Stadium improvements will provide a 360 degree walk around, making it easier to get to ALL seats in the stadium and easier access to bathrooms, concessions, apparel, etc.

How will the stadium renovation impact the overall game day experience for fans? Why is that important?

The game itself has become much more about the experience than solely about the football game.  The poor seating, concessions, bathrooms, access, all contribute to a less than quality experience for fans of all ages. We want to make it a blast for those attending and better meet the changing needs of all our fans. We are confident that we can attract upwards of 7000 fans per game with a new stadium and all the improvements we are making to the game day experience!

How you can get involved

GIVE

Pave the Way and make your mark all at once. Gifts of $300 to $2,500 will be recognized with various sized brick pavers leading from the tunnel to the stadium’s entrance. Each brick will be customizable, allowing you to add whatever name and message you want to commemorate.

LEARN

Read more about the project, watch video testimonials about the impact, and stay up-to-date on the WSU Stadium Renovation campaign at wsu.mn/Stadium.

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Sarah Stockwell

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