Oct. 4, 2012
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Seems Steve Sarkisian may like the progress of Husky Stadium's renovation.
Just a hunch.
"Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow!" the Huskies coach gushed to more than 300 construction workers, iron workers, designers and contractors wearing hard hats, work boots and neon safety vests at the renovation site Wednesday afternoon. "This is just tremendous. It's humbling for me to stand before you to watch this project continue to take place."
Sarkisian was standing on a concrete platform in the northwest corner of the $250 million project that is now more than halfway complete. He had just passed through what next summer will be the glittering, 83,000-squre-foot football operations center in the stadium's west end.
He was looking out onto the almost completed frame to the new south stands, above what will become the new UW Sports Medicine Clinic. He then joined the workers, UW Athletic Director Scott Woodward, Associate Director of Athletics for Capital Projects Chip Lydum, former Gov. Dan Evans and others in signing the final, roof beam that the Wright Runstad and Company investment building firm commemorated at a "topping-off" ceremony.
It is tradition in the construction industry to recognize the installation of the highest point of a building as it goes up. That's what Sarkisian was doing in the sun at the Husky Stadium renovation site, speaking to the iron workers and contractors over a barbeque lunch and then watching the final beam get placed by crane at the highest point of the new stadium, centered atop the south, cantilever roof.
"The beauty of it - like I talk to the team all the time - this is like a halftime speech right now," Sarkisian told the construction crews seated in folding chairs at long tables, drawing cheers over their sandwiches and sodas. "We've done a lot of good work in the first half. It's a great project. Man, the score's in our favor. But now we've got to go finish. We've got to go finish! We've got to put in the same work and the second half.
"It's very similar to the speech that we are going to give our guys Saturday night in Autzen (Stadium in Eugene, when 23rd-ranked UW (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) meets No. 2 Oregon (5-0, 2-0)). Because we will play really well in the first half against the Ducks. Traditionally the Ducks play extremely well in the third and into the fourth quarter, and that's going to be our key to go win this game Saturday is a great second half.
"And that's going to be a key for you guys in winning this project and completing this project, is a great second half. So congratulations on a job well done up to this point. Now let's go finish. Let's go finish, man! That's our motto around here, go FINISH!
"Go Dawgs! Appreciate it."
With that the workers roared and clapped and whistled.
"This is for YOU!" one shouted out.
Then they lined up to take pictures with the coach for whose football program they have been working tirelessly since last November. They've gotten so much done already, the Huskies have moved up the new stadium's unveiling game one week, to Aug. 31, 2013, against Boise State.
So congratulations on a job well done up to this point. Now let's go finish.
Cindy Edens is a senior vice president for development for Seattle-based Wright Runstad who along with project manager Chris Broadgate have been the company's on-site leaders for the renovation. Edens took Sarkisian's analogy of the project being a game further. She said the crews, which at the peak of the renovation have had 60 structural iron workers from union Local 86, have also been likening the reconstruction progress to a football. By the crews' count, the workers are leading approximately 28-14 over setbacks such as bad weather and delays.
She estimated there are "14 minutes left in the third quarter" of the project, so it has actually just passed its halfway point.
The workers cheered more at that. Then they lined up to have their hard hats -- white, orange, red, even a yellow-and-green one with a Green Bay Packers logo patterned after a football helmet - signed by Washington's fourth-year coach and visionary for the renovation.
"Great game last week, man," one worker said to Sarkisian, joining the many who congratulated the coach for beating eighth-ranked Stanford last week at CenturyLink Field. That's the Huskies' temporary downtown home while these guys complete Husky Stadium.
"I'm proud to be a Husky," another told Sarkisian as he shook his hand.
"Thanks for being involved with us. It's awesome," another said.
"Wow," is what Sarkisian kept saying as he met the crews and surveyed the work. "This is just amazing."
Later, the coach thought of his daily, ground-level view over a wooden wall of the renovation during his team's practices on the adjacent East Field. He compared it to the overhead one he was enjoying Wednesday. Walking through the iron frames of the football operations center, he was wowed by the sheer size. He noted how it must be a linear distance of at least 75 yards from what will be the offices for defensive coaches on one end of the facility's semicircle footprint to those of the offensive assistants at the other end.
That space doesn't include the locker rooms, weight room, training rooms, recruiting lounge and other features that will be on the other floors of the facility overlooking the west end zone.
Husky football has set a goal of moving into the operations center before preseason practice for 2013 begins next August.
"There is functionality and a `wow' factor of the football operations center," Woodward said, reiterating the huge boost the facility will give the Huskies' recruiting.
"That's going to be pretty cool."
Sarkisian was viewing the project from above for one of the only times since it began 11 months ago. And the enormity of the largest capital project in Huskies' history -- the transformation of the 92-year-old, lakeside icon into one of the nation's most state-of-the-art football facilities - struck the former Brigham Young and Canadian Football League quarterback like a blindside blitz.
"I want to bring the staff through here. I don't think you can comprehend how massive the office space is," Sarkisian said.
His assistants couldn't comprehend one more thing concerning the project.
"My coaches kept asking me at practice (Tuesday), `What is that tree doing up there?'" Sarkisian said.
H. Jon Runstad, Wright Runstad's co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer, explained the worldwide tradition of importing a tree and posting it at the highest point of a structure during construction. It dates to medieval times in Northern Europe, when structures were primarily wooden. Construction crews of that era began bringing a tree to a ceremony to signify life that was being brought from the forest in the form of a new building.
That's why passersby on Montlake Boulevard may see an evergreen atop the center of the south deck roof at new Husky Stadium. They may also be able to see a United States flag. It's become an iron and steel workers tradition to fly a flag at the highest point of a construction site, to show the union's patriotism.
Representatives from the 360 Architecture, the design firm for the project, flew in from Kansas City to join the crews at Wednesday's "topping-off" ceremony.
"This is a great project. I'm proud to be associated with it," Runstad said. "We've done a lot of topping-offs along the way. But I don't think we've had so many skilled workers at one site."
Not to mention a keenly interested - and wowed - football coach.
"From this vantage point up here, just looking at this," Sarkisian said from the northwest corner of new Husky Stadium, shaking his head, "it's just awesome."