University of Washington in race with transit and economy for stadium renovations

SEATTLE

Todd Turner and Husky Stadium are in a race that has nothing to do with which school in the Pac-10 has the nicest football stadium.

The athletic director’s plan for the future of the oldest stadium in the Pac-10 is finally developing a timeline. By November, the committee examining ways to improve the 87-year-old stadium should have finalized financial and repair plans in place.

This much is known: To complete all of the committee’s wants and needs, Turner says the costs will be “in the hundreds of millions.” And complicating matters is a massive public transportation project set to tear up the front door of Husky Stadium.

But Turner believes the effort is worth it.

“It’s an investment in our community that is part of what the University of Washington is all about,” Turner said Thursday after briefing the UW Board of Regents earlier in the day. “And whether you like intercollegiate football or believe in intercollegiate athletics, it’s an undeniable fact. … Our objective is to build something that is good for our community, good for our program and of quality.”

The needs list for the stadium is lengthy, beginning with a complete renovation of the roughly 40,000 seats in the stadium’s lower bowl, the original structure that opened in 1920.

Plans call for the field to be lowered by about 8 feet and the track removed. The west end of the stadium would be brought 80 to 100 feet closer to the playing field as part of a new complex that would house offices for football staff, ticketing and locker rooms.

The top of that new complex would include a handful of suites and club seating. There would be a new press box and nine elevators, instead of the current two.

Former Gov. Dan Evans, chairman of the stadium committee, believes a complete renovation of the lower bowl is the best move. The committee has estimated that without a fix, it will cost millions in coming years just to keep the lower bowl up to code.

“It’s in extraordinarily bad shape currently,” Evans said. “If you take a look at it, when it’s not filled with fans and all the excitement focused on the field, and take a look at the stadium, it badly needs help. There is no alternative.”

So far, however, there is no plan for financing the project, or dealing with the massive headache of a Sound Transit light-rail station to be built over 5 1/2 years just outside the west entrance of the stadium.

The Sound Transit project will take up as much as six acres and calls for utility work to be completed next year. Full construction is scheduled to begin in December 2009 and not be completed until March 2014.

Turner would like to beat Sound Transit to the punch and get started on stadium renovations in late 2008 or early 2009. Under that timeline, the 2010 and perhaps 2011 football seasons would most likely not be played at Husky Stadium, while renovations are completed, although Turner’s goal is to not move the team from the stadium at all.

As for financing, Turner hopes a combination of steps could cover much of the cost. Revenues from premium seating, ticket surcharges, faculty and student fees all could help cover some of the cost, but Turner isn’t closing off the idea of seeking state assistance.

He said if funding is in the low $100 millions, then that’s what will be done, but the goal is completing the entire project.

–Associated Press



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