University of Washington officials say fundraising is going well and the renovation has benefited from unseasonably dry weather.
One quarter into the renovation of Husky Stadium, University of Washington officials say the best news is there really isn’t much news at all.
Athletic director Scott Woodward said Monday the $250 million renovation, set to be completed in time for the 2013 football season, is “on time and on budget. And that’s music to my ears.” As the building phase of the project begins, Woodward updated media on the project at a news conference and allowed photographers to shoot the site.
Washington set a goal of raising $50 million in major gifts by the end of construction (officially set for Aug. 8, 2013), and Woodward said the current total is $48.5 million.
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He admitted he was worried whether UW could raise that money when the project began a few years ago.
“I was scared beyond belief,” Woodward said of the tough economic climate. “But here again, hard work and belief in our program and belief in this university, our donors step up year in and year out.”
And Woodward said the money came from many corners.
“I don’t have one big donor that wrote a big check,” he said. “We have a bunch of healthy donors that have stepped up.”
The rest of the funding for the project will come largely from revenue generated by the stadium; the project will not draw from general public funds. Woodward repeated that the school caught a break in setting many prices for construction and materials during the economic downturn.
“We hit the construction markets, the finance markets, just right,” he said.
As for the construction, “The only surprises so far have been pleasant surprises,” said Bob Collier, a project consultant.
That included some unseasonably dry weather in December and January that, according to Chip Lydum, UW’s associate athletic director for operations and capital projects, made the demolition phase a little easier.
“It was exactly what we needed,” he said. “We could demolish and haul dirt out when it was basically dry,”
Washington completed the tear down and excavation earlier this year, and now is beginning the building of the football operations center on the west end.
Collier said steel will begin to go up in the football operations building in a little over a month and that the south stands will start to go up June 15, calling those the next two “really big milestones.”
He said he wouldn’t necessarily say construction is ahead of schedule.
“We are tracking very well with our schedule,” Collier said. “And so far there is nothing that has jumped in our way to give us cause to think anything differently.”
There had been some concern how the renovation would coexist with the Montlake Sound Transit project, scheduled to be completed by 2016. But John Palewicz, UW’s director of capital projects, said that has not been an issue. “Everybody has gone overboard to make sure it works really well,” he said.
With the stadium under renovation this fall, UW will play its games at CenturyLink Field. In another pleasant surprise, Woodward said UW so far has a 95 percent renewal rate for season tickets from last year (when the Huskies sold roughly 42,500 season tickets).
“I thought we’d have some falloff having to go to CenturyLink,” he said.
Woodward cast a similarly sunny light on early sales for premium seats in the new Husky Stadium — critical to help pay off the stadium down the road.
He said UW has sold out of club seats and the 30 patio suites for the new stadium. Just five to eight of the 25 luxury suites remain.
One issue still to be settled is the building’s exact capacity. The old Husky Stadium had an official capacity of 72,500, though a few more fans sometimes were shoehorned in. The new stadium will likely seat around 70,000, though Lydum said that number could fluctuate until the end. Washington officials pointed out that some seats in the old stadium were obstructed view, so there won’t be a loss of good seats even if the official capacity drops.
“There will be many more better seats than we have currently,” Woodward said.
• Backup OL Siosifa Tufunga, a redshirt freshman, broke his right hand in practice Monday. That leaves UW with eight healthy offensive linemen and that could have an impact on what the Huskies are able to do for the Spring Game, 1 p.m. Saturday at CenturyLink.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to have a full-fledged spring game in a sense to where there are two teams and it’s split up,” said coach Steve Sarkisian. “But we’ll try to figure out what we are going to do as we move toward the end of the week and see how healthy we can get. … It might have to be an offense (vs.) defense thing or something of the sort. We’ll figure it out.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com. On Twitter @bcondotta.