The Washington state football championships are staying put for the time being but with an eye on bigger venues.

Mick Hoffman, executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, said the WIAA Executive Board determined Aug. 15 that the state championship games would remain at high-school sites for the next two years. But thanks to strong negotiations with the University of Washington, Husky Stadium is a potential option going forward.

He called finances a factor, but not a driver, and UW went down to out-of-pocket costs.

“They want to do this,” Hoffman said. “There’s high motivation, which made it up for discussion this time.

“By the end of this school year, we want to have a four-year plan that aligns with our classification system for all our tournaments. Our formats are set, our locations are set. For four years, everyone can plan. And UW cannot guarantee they would be available with what’s going on with NCAA alignment issues.”

There was not even a bid provided for Lumen Field, Hoffman said, because it wouldn’t have come close to UW’s. He hopes the Seahawks can be involved in another capacity, even if hosting isn’t in the cards.


There could also be other contenders in two years. An overhaul of 75-year-old Memorial Stadium could make that Seattle site an option. According to descriptions Hoffman has heard, the new football stadium at Federal Way High School could have four locker rooms. Construction is expected to begin early next year.

Not long ago, the football season had an established finish line. From 1995 to 2018, the Tacoma Dome hosted the title games, called the WIAA Gridiron Classic. The Dome also provided a dry and warm environment for the games that are played the first weekend of December.

“Ultimately, the Executive Board needed to evaluate whether holding the Gridiron Classic in the Tacoma Dome made sense for the association, student-participants and fans. Costs of renting the facility have continued to increase and WIAA staff received criticisms regarding the new seating arrangement for football,” then-WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said in a release.

The Seattle Times reported Colbrese said it cost nearly $70,000 for the WIAA to hold the six title games at the Tacoma Dome in 2018, and that rising costs had become a factor as attendance at state events declined.

Ticket sales have declined for around 15 years, Hoffman said, which is part of a nationwide trend. However there was an uptick in 2021. The previous attendance numbers between all six games had been 14,000 to 15,000, but grew to more than 16,000 in 2021 despite cold and wet conditions.

There’s an allure to playing on the same turf as NFL and college teams. However, three to four thousand fans clustered in one lower bowl of Husky Stadium, with a capacity of 70,138, looks and sounds odd, and Sparks Stadium makes more sense to some. Hoffman said the Washington State Football Coach Association is divided in its annual meetings as to whether Husky Stadium or Lumen Field would be better than smaller venues.


Hoffman said this year, they plan to look into using the same venues they’ve traditionally used first — Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Sparks Stadium in Puyallup and Harry E. Lang Stadium in Lakewood.

After two years largely focused on minimizing pandemic disruptions, the WIAA is looking at what it can do to make the state games more elaborate than a regular-season matchup, whether that means renting tunnels, blasting music or staggering games further apart for on-field celebrations and locker-room farewells.

“For our students that make the state championship, that is an achievement in itself. We want to make sure that we do our part to make that an awesome experience and that they have positive lifetime memories, win or lose,” Hoffman said.