Annually voted the most scenic football structure in the nation, Husky Stadium has proven to be a monstrous opponent for visitors hoping to pin a loss on Washington's gridiron heroes.
Nestled high above Union Bay in Lake Washington, Husky Stadium has several characteristics that make it unique among stadia:
A seating capacity of 72,500 allows Husky Stadium to rank as the nation's 15th largest on-campus facility. It is the largest stadium, college or professional, in the Pacific Northwest.
With nearly 70 percent of the seats located between the end zones, Husky Stadium can be one of the loudest stadiums in the nation. During the 1992 Nebraska contest, the first night game in Husky Stadium history, ESPN sideline crews measured the crowd noise at 130 decibels.
"70,000 screaming, yelling and stomping--that crowd was probably the biggest difference. The acoustics here are amazing, a huge factor. I've been around C-130 transports a lot, and this almost felt like I was on a runway."
Army defensive tackle Al Roberts
Tailgating takes on a whole new meaning at Husky Stadium. Boat moorings are available for fans to travel to Washington games via the water. Members of the Husky crew team shuttle fans back-and-forth between their vessels and the docks adjoining the stadium grounds. The north upper deck offers sweeping views of Mt. Rainier, the Olympic Mountain Range and downtown Seattle.
Built in 1920 at a cost of $600,000, the stadium's initial capacity was listed at 30,000. The stadium was opened in the dedication game, November 27, 1920, when Dartmouth defeated Washington, 28-7. A student fund drive, in which students and businessmen sold plaques at $50 and $100 levels, provided the capital necessary to get the project off the ground.
"It's always loud, but this game was really loud, especially at crunch time. When they start stomping and clapping, you can feel the metal rattle in your helmet."
David Richie, Washington defensive tackle on the 1995 Army game
Two members of the stadium committee were dispatched east to study an existing report on stadia. Their determination called for a seating capacity of 60,000 and be constructed in two units. One of the key factors in the layout of the stadium was the establishment of the longitudinal axis. The goal was to avoid the glare of the sun in the stadium as much as possible for the benefit of the players.
To accomplish this goal, the astronomical department figured the angle of the rays of the sun at 4 p.m., November 24, 1920. Based on those measurements, the axis of the stadium was approximately set at right angles to the rays which established the axis at 71 degrees 50 minutes west of north. The final components in figuring the stadium location were figuring the best views of the lake and mountains from the interior and working with the existing confines of the land.
Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company was contracted to build the structure. The original contract to begin construction was signed May 7, 1920 and called for work to be complete by November 27 for the Dartmouth game a timetable of six months and 20 days. A unique method of excavation know as sluicing, which displaces earth with high pressure water, was used to clear the area. In all, 230,000 cubic yards of earth was moved using 687,000,000 gallons of water. The original crown on the playing field reached a height of 18 inches.
Plans for the stadium called for a four-lane track and the structural drawings called for stands that would allow patrons to view the entire running track without rising or having the view obstructed by the person sitting adjacent to him or her. The study resulted in an elliptical form being adopted.
A sunken passage was built to separate the fans from the field while also providing drainage for the field and facility. Drainage was a major concern of construction since it was calculated that one inch of rain fall on the structural portion of the stadium would accumulate 36,000 gallons of water.
The aisles and seating patterns were planned so that the original capacity crowd of 30,000 could exit the stadium in seven minutes.
The stadium was completed on time despite 46 days of rain during the construction period. Final work was finished 12 hours before kickoff of the inaugural game.
The stadium experienced further growth in 1936 when 10,000 above-grade seats were added around the rim of the structure, upping capacity to 40,000.
In 1950, Husky Stadium was again expanded when roof-covered stands were added to the south side. Approximately 15,000 additional seats, at a cost of $1.7 million, offered excellent viewing between the goal posts.
A cantilevered steel roof partially covered all seats in the upper deck and approximately 6,000 seats in the lower stands. In the rear of the structure, two silo-shaped ramps provided access to the upper deck concourses.
The two-level press box and camera deck areas were also installed as part of the 1950 project. The view available for approximately 75 members of the press is 165 feet above the stadium floor. The south side elevator was also part of the 1950 construction project.
"I knew it would be a very, very difficult place to play. But I thought it was really a class atmosphere of Washington and I thought the fans, the administration, it was just a great environment. They were so rabid for their own team, but with real class. They didn't try to tear you down or anything else, but they cheered for their team and showed respect for Notre Dame and I think that is a very healthy environment."
Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz after the 1995 Irish game at Washington
Stadium capacity jumped from 55,000 to more than 59,000 in 1968 when 3,000 seats were added to the north rim and portable bleachers were installed beyond the east end zone. AstroTurf replaced the old grass field in 1968, the same year an all-weather track was installed around the football playing field. Washington was the first major college to install an AstroTurf field. At the time, the Houston Astrodome was the only other facility to use the playing surface. Because of the lack of similar fields, the Huskies stocked over 200 pairs of shoes for opponents to use during games. The original artificial turf was replaced in 1972, 1977, 1987 and, mostly recently, in the summer of 1995.
Husky Stadium is "almost" too pretty for football and has "fantastic" views from the north upper deck.
Tom Dienhart, The Sporting News
In 1987, Husky Stadium expanded once again, adding 13,000 new seats. The $13 million project, performed by Lydig Construction of Spokane, brought the capacity to 72,500. The hallmark facet of the construction was a glass-enclosed reception area with a field view from goal line to goal line. Besides serving as an entertainment center on game days, the Don James Center has the capabilities to host major banquets or social events.
During the summer of 1990, the wooden bleachers in the north upper deck were replaced with new aluminum seating. The same process was repeated for the south upper deck in the summer of 1992.
The north deck seats are accessible by ramp or elevator. Husky Stadium possesses 49,580 sideline seats, or 68 percent of total capacity.
In 1989, all major construction in Husky Stadium was concluded with the replacement of the west stands. The $3.7 million facelift gives Husky fans better seating, more concession stands and restrooms, a new first aid room, police security area and photo deck.