University of Washington fans will be closer to the action in a cozier, upgraded setting.
Husky Stadium is one of the most beautiful settings to watch a college-football game in the country. And it’s certainly one of the loudest.
So when the University of Washington decided to rebuild two-thirds of Husky Stadium, the goal was to keep it the same, but make it better.
Amplify the noise. Preserve the view. Hang onto the stadium’s two grandstand roofs, which punctuate the landscape like a set of airborne quotation marks. But rip out and redo the 90-year-old concrete lower bowl, dismantle and rebuild the 60-year-old south stadium, remove the track, bring fans closer to the action, and turn the cold, utilitarian underbelly into an inviting new concourse.
When a tide of purple-clad fans rolls into the $250 million remodel for the opening home game in 2013 against Boise State, they’ll walk into a stadium that feels much more intimate.
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“The proximity to the field is going to be huge,” said Rick Redman, a former Husky All-American who was on the advisory board that gave input into the new stadium design.
“It will change the character of the game,” said Redman, 68, who has been going to Husky Stadium since he was in high school. “Fans will feel much more involved, and kids will be able to feel that.”
There will be more leg room — it will feel like sitting in business class, rather than coach. Aisles will be wider. There will be eight elevators accessible to the public, instead of two. The scoreboard will be wider, with a larger, higher-quality video screen. There will be 20 percent more bathroom stalls, with more for women than men.
Oh, yes, and did we mention how close the seats will be to the sidelines?
“It will make you feel like you are really on top of the game,” said Brad Schrock, a founding principal architect for 360 Architecture, the Kansas City, Mo., firm designing the new stadium.
“The key to these football games is the proximity to the field,” echoed Ron Crockett, a major Husky athletics booster and owner of Emerald Downs, the thoroughbred racetrack in Auburn. Moving the seats close will amp up the excitement, Crockett predicted.
And the noise? “It will be even greater,” he said.
If you went to any of the last few games, you got a hint of what the new seating placement will be like from a thick purple line painted on the track, showing where the first row will begin. Husky Stadium will go from one of the widest spaces between sidelines and the first row to one of the tightest in college football, Schrock said.
“It could be the best place to play in the Pac-12 — one of the best stadiums in America,” said Chip Lydum, the associate athletic director managing the stadium renovation.
To preserve the sight lines, contractors will lower the field, digging it out four feet. Row A, where the view is now blocked by the backsides of players and coaches, will have an unobstructed view.
Schrock has an insiders’ perspective on stadiums: His son, John, is a freshman third-string quarterback for Colorado, and when the Huskies took on the Buffaloes in mid-October, Schrock was there on the field — one of dozens of trips he and the 360 Architecture design team have made to Seattle.
And as a parent whose son was part of the recruiting process, he has insight into what matters to an 18-year-old being recruited. What helps? Among other things, a good locker room. “They want to feel like it isn’t high school anymore,” he said.
Warren Moon, the former Huskies quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer, says that new facilities will, indeed, help lure future recruits. “All the different improvements will help our football program and our recruiting immensely,” he said. “You’ve got to keep up with Joneses.”
Seating is being reshuffled in the stadium, and ticket prices will change accordingly. And not everyone is happy with the change.
The student section, known as the Dawg Pack, is being moved from a prime location in the middle of the north stands to the west end zone, a move that angered students when it was announced last year. But university officials noted that there are few college stadiums in the country where students get the best seats.
“The consensus (among students) was, ‘We get why you’re doing this — we’re just upset by it,’ ” said student- body president Conor McLean, who heads the Associated Students of the UW (ASUW).
An ASUW committee is working with the athletics department to make sure students get something in return for vacating their prime location, McLean said. One concession: student ticket prices were dropped from $120 this year to $99 a year in 2012 and 2013. Students will also get their own entrance, and may get discounts on concessions.
As an architect, Schrock is impressed by that “great roof structure,” which is unique to Husky Stadium. “That is really fabulous, and lends so much to the intimacy and power of the stadium,” he said. The new south-stand roof line will occupy the same space that the old one does — same height, same location.
Husky Stadium first acquired its roofline, which shields many seats from the rain, when the south-side stands were built in 1950. It’s uncommon for college football stands to have huge overhanging roofs — they add to the cost of a stadium, and “in other climates, it’s hard to make the argument” to build them, Schrock said.
Husky Stadium’s Montlake facade is getting a new exterior face, as well.
The exterior of the west end zone, which faces Montlake Boulevard Northeast, will become part of a new building that’s occupied all year long, with an entry lobby for the team office, coaches’ offices, a recruiting lounge, locker rooms and a weight room. The box office will be part of the west end, and a team store and other retail businesses may also be included.
The building will make “a formal statement on Montlake,” with a brick, stone and glass facade, Schrock said — a palette of materials that echoes Edmundson Pavilion, UW’s basketball arena next door.
The stadium is also acquiring a clinic. UW Medicine’s Sports Medicine Clinic is relocating to a 70,000-square-foot medical center underneath the south stands. It will be located below ground and will treat both UW Medicine patients and football players alike.
The new premium seats will be located in the south stands, and associate athletic director Lydum said the department has worked hard at making the luxury boxes and club seats blend in.
“We believe the DNA of the Pacific Northwest native is understated, not flamboyant,” Lydum said. “There are going to be some amenities, with scoreboards and concessions, but it’s going to be the same familiar place people have loved for generations. There’s a Northwest sensibility about this.”
Moon, the former Husky quarterback, hopes that fans bring that same level of enthusiasm to the new stadium, and don’t get all hoity-toity in the luxury boxes.
“You know, sometimes people act uppity, more conservative when they’re in newer, nicer surroundings,” he said. “I hope they’re not serving sushi or anything.”
Seattle Times Sports Editor Don Shelton contributed to this report.
Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or firstname.lastname@example.org