We are less than a year away from the start of the Husky Stadium remodel. Lets take a closer look at the plans, how it is being paid for, and most importantly how it will impact fans, boosters, students, and the team.
The original bowl of the stadium was built and finished in 1920 which makes it 92 years old. 92 years is just about the exact shelf life of concrete that was poured in that era and was left exposed to the moist elements of the Pacific Northwest.
The south upper deck was built in 1950 which makes it 62 years old. It isn't close to being up to seismic standards, it has some obstructed view seating, and to put it mildly the amenities are quite rustic. What was so impressive to me as a kid growing up in the 1960's now looks quite dated.
Lets talk about ADA standards. The old stadium isn't even close to meeting them. That wasn't much of a problem for me as a young man but now as I move into my 50's I can see the difficulties and danger that the older fans face getting to and leaving their seats.
The original bowl of the stadium had begun to crumble alarmingly so the University had three choices.
1. Spend an average of $10 million per year in maintenance costs going forward to preserve what is there without making improvements.
2. For all intents and purposes rebuild 75% of the stadium preserving only the North Deck for approximately $250 million.
3. Tear the stadium down and begin playing at Qwest Field.
Decision and Funding
Everything was on the table but the President of the University and the Board of Regents were in agreement that choice #2 was the only real alternative. Public money was the first option but the University never got anywhere on that one with the legislature.
In the end the UW decided to fund the project themselves. They are on track to raise $50 million in donations and pay the rest of the debt off with money generated by more revenue generated by the stadium itself.
Impact on the fan
When Tyee seating was introduced in the 1970's there was some understandable disappointment from longtime season ticket holders whose seats were being moved to make way for those willing to donate at a certain level. You can count on that happening again in 2013 even though the demand for season tickets is lower which will help mitigate some of those concerns.
Most of these impacts are going to be felt in the lower levels of the stadium. That is where they will be adding 25 suites, 25 loge boxes, and 2,500 premium covered seats on the South side of the stadium. On the north side they will be moving the student section to the NW corner of the end zone which will open up prime sideline seating to the public and the ability to expand the the Don James Center.
If you want to be a part of this party you are going to have to pony up an average of $3000 per season ticket for premium seating. That price tag does include access to cocktails, a club like atmosphere, and bragging rights down at the Seattle Yacht Club.
The average Tyee member paid an average of $454 extra per ticket in 2010. Look for that average to climb into at least the mid sixes in 2013. Even if you aren't being displaced by luxury seating you will have to pony up some extra bucks to stay where you are in the lower level. If you aren't a Tyee and just buy season tickets you can expect the cost of that ticket will increase around $20 bucks per game. You also fall into the most likely to be moved around and shuffled category.
With season ticket sales hovering around the 45,000 mark the athletic department isn't interested in putting people out on the street. There are approximately 50,000 sideline seats. In a 72,000 seat stadium without a bad seat there is room for everyone and reasonable price levels. According the the Seattle Times the average price per ticket will be around $154 per game and that figure includes those fancy $3000 seats.
If you do get moved you can console yourself with this simple fact. Sight lines are going to dramatically improve in the lower bowl. The lowering of the field, the removal of the track, and moving the stands closer to the playing field means there isn't going to be a bad seat in the house. Not a single seat in the stadium will be view obstructed not to mention that the view from every single seat will be improved.
Impact on the Student
The students were instrumental in getting this stadium built in the 1920's. They helped raise most of the original funds and have been sitting right on the 50 yard line ever since. That is going to change in 2013. The Students are going to be relocated to the NW end zone surrounding the tunnel.
I have traveled to stadiums across the country and this is just one of those things that have to happen when you are trying to create more revenue opportunities. The students will be just fine. They get a separate entrance and get a say in how their seating area will be designed.
UW students don't pay athletic student fee's like they do at most Pac 10 schools. Tickets are also discounted by approximately 70 percent and that discount will probably be increased. So the students have always gotten a great deal.
Impact on the Football Program
This project puts Washington back on the national map in football. This remodel makes Husky Stadium one of the best if not the best football stadium in college football. That will make recruiting and retaining coaches a lot easier in these days of rampant athletic facility expansion. One of the highlights of the remodel will be a 70,000-square foot state-of-the-art facility built into the West side of Husky Stadium.
The football center will include separate training rooms, locker rooms, equipment rooms, weight room, meeting rooms and offices for the football coaches. These type of facilities have become standard in most big-time BCS programs. One look South of the border in Eugene shows you just how important this facility will be.
Obviously the number one impact for the athletic department is the ability to generate more funds from ticket sales and donations. Only 6% of the stadiums seating will be so called premium seating. The average across the country is more like 10%.
UW expects to generate $6 million annually from those seats which will go a long way toward paying the $15 millon per year the school needs to service the debt on the stadium. The rest of the money is expected to come from television, radio, increased attendance, fee's, and donations.
Impact on the game day environment
When you first walk into the new stadium you are going to be absolutely blown away. Compare it to the first time you visited Safeco or Qwest. You will be impressed but it will be better because it will combine most of the best of old and new.
Feel free to compare it to Autzen because the new Husky Stadium is just going to blow it away. This will be the best stadium in the conference if not the country. I admit there are some great college stadiums out there but none of them are close to being blessed with a location like Husky Stadium.
The crowd is going to be much closer to the field. The players are going to feel more connected the crowd if that even sounds possible since this is the noisiest venue in college football because of the opposing double deck configuration.
The stadium will be more segregated. Most of us are not going to be rubbing elbows with the approximately 4100 people who are wealthy enough to afford premium seating and the amenities that go along with it. The students and the band as mentioned earlier gets moved to the west end zone where they will have a separate entrance to the stadium.
If you are in the press you were rumored be trading the best view in college football high above the 50 yard line on the South Deck for a modern and expanded press area on top of the new football operations center in the West end zone. The latest drawing we have seen that was released by the Seattle Times shows the press box on the 50 high up on the south side.
Tailgating is still going to be limited in the south parking lot until 2016 when the Sound Transit Light Rail Station is completed. In the meantime the athletic department will continue to entertain fans in "The Zone" which seems to be a success and continues to improve.
Scott Woodward says there is no phase two at this point. He said in a Seattle Times chat last week that the improvements would be made to the north upper deck before they even thought about expanding the stadium to over 80,000 by adding another upper deck to the west end zone. The need for more seats won't be there until the next decade. The transportation infrastructure to handle it won't be in place until then
The next major project once this one is finished will likely be a $20-$40 million training facility for the men's and women's basketball teams. The facility would have two practice courts, weight training, coaches offices, and support space. Not sure where this will be located but one guess might be where the old aquatic facility is.
How is this all going to lay out?
The Seattle Times published a great graphic on it last week. Seating configurations aren't written in stone yet but this is a pretty good guesstimate on how the stadium will look when it is finished.
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