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UW Husky Stadium remodel: Private effort, public benefit

Future Husky Stadium at night
University of Washington
Future Husky Stadium at night

The University of Washington said this week it's close to reaching its fundraising goal for renovating Husky Stadium. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says fans will benefit from this project, but don't have to pay for it.

The UW says it's raised $42 million of the $50 million needed in private donations. The other $200 million will come from the university financing a 30-year bond.

Over the last three years, the state Legislature repeatedly refused the university's requests for some public funding for the new stadium. So the UW went the entirely private route, using no taxpayer dollars. Given the current state of the economy, Art says that's impressive.

"That's the big achievement here...they had to come up with this privately and I think they should be proud of the fact that they managed to pull this off."

Will cost a bit more, but it's worth it

Twenty-one thousand of the 70,000 seats will have some sort of premium pricing for luxury and patio suites. There will be an incremental increase of five to 15% in tickets for the other 50,000 general seats. No final decision has been made yet.

Old stadium falling apart

Art says Husky Stadium has been in desperate need of repair for a long time. It was built in 1920 and hasn't had much done to it.

"It's decrepit. If you ever walk through it when it's empty, you can see the missing concrete, the exposed rebar, the lousy wiring. Really, it's a terrible facility. It lacks concession, it lacks bathrooms, it lacks ADA (Americans with Disabilities) access."

New facility: same look, new feel

Art says the overall look of the stadium will remain the same. They're not changing the roof. They're going to preserve the view of Lake Washington. And they're keeping the tunnel where the players enter the field.

One big change: they're moving the students and the band from 50-yard line to the west end zone.

They're also removing the track around the field. Art says that will put fans a lot closer to the action. The front row will be closer to the sidelines (at 44 ft.) than the front row at CenturyLink Field where the Seahawks play.

"It's going to be an intimate, loud, intense experience and it's going to have all the amenities that a modern American sports arena has."

The modern amenities will include more concessions, more bathrooms and (finally) a grand entrance to the stadium.

Moving forward

Construction on the new Husky Stadium is set to begin after the final home game this fall. The Huskies will play the 2012 season at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. They're expected to play the first game in their new stadium in the fall of 2013.

You can read more of Art Thiel's comments on the Husky Stadium renovation at Sportspress Northwest.

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.