"Pretty Cool": Inside Husky Stadium's Renovation
April 23, 2012
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - A lonely orange traffic cone sits amid bulldozers, dirt mounds and pilings. That's about where the goal post of the west end zone will stand.
Yellow scaffolding supports the inside of the newly cemented tunnel -- a wider one that will connect the Huskies from their new locker room and 70,000-square-foot football operations center to a new, lowered field.
Workers scale either side of a retaining wall, setting the concrete foundation for a new sports medicine center, 200-car parking garage, visitors' locker room and the lower deck of the new south stands.
Amid the $250 million renovation of Husky Stadium -- standing on what will soon again be the 50-yard line between dirt mounds, bundles of steel Rebar, bulldozers and crane - the progress and massive scale of this project come into focus.
It all makes coach Steve Sarkisian smile.
"I'm excited -- understanding there is a long way to go and a season in between. But it's a fascinating project to watch as we come out here to practice," Sarkisian said Monday after the Huskies finished the 12th of 15 spring practices on the East Field, a few feet beyond the renovation. "To hear the banging and the clanging, and the dirt flying, and the welding going on ... it's pretty amazing what they are doing in a short among of time.
"It's a reality. It's a reality that the kid that signs with us in the 2013 recruiting class, his first games are going to be in the new Husky Stadium - which is pretty cool."
Way cool, in the view of Sarkisian's boss, UW athletic director Scott Woodward.
"I'm a Maytag Repair Man ... I don't have much to do," Woodward said inside the stadium's Don James Center on the intact upper north side. The DJC has transformed into Turner Construction Company's administrative headquarters overlooking the transformation going on below.
"This project is on time and on budget. That is music to my ears," Woodward said. "Those are the two most important things to me."
Here's a third: Woodward announced that despite a sluggish economy the Husky athletic department has raised $48.5 million of the $50 million it is seeking in private donations toward funding the project, with 16 months still remaining before Turner Construction estimates the stadium will be completely finished. Weeks later Washington is scheduled to begin its new era inside a state-of-the-art Husky Stadium on Sept. 7, 2013, against Boise State.
"That's quite impressive. That's a hell of a testament to our donors and they job they have done," Woodward said of the fund raising.
He confirmed all new club seats and patio suites have been sold in the new stadium. Only about a half dozen suites of any kind remain available for sale.
Woodward announced the Huskies have retained about 95 percent of its season-ticket base from last year through this coming one, in which UW home games will be played at CenturyLink Field downtown.
"Incredible," Woodward said, underscoring the enthusiasm over the rising football program and the stadium project. "We thought we would have some fall off. I was doubtful. And I've been proven wrong.
"Our fans are sophisticated enough to know it's only a year. ... For one year we can live with (any off-campus inconvenience) - I think our fans and our donors understand that."
So does Sarkisian, his staff and their players. They spent two more hours Monday coaching, running, hitting and blocking a few feet east of the churning bulldozers, cranes and crews.
The first steel for the football operations building atop the west stands that will serve as a glass gateway from Montlake Boulevard into the new stadium are scheduled to go in the ground within a month. By mid-June, passersby and viewers to the stadium's construction webcam (http://www.huskystadium.com) will begin seeing steel support beams to the new south stands going up above the recently completed foundation and walls.
"The first quarter of the game was completed April 15. And we feel really good," said Chip Lydum, UW's associate athletic director for operations and capital projects.
Roughly one year from now, in April 2013, the field is scheduled to be lowered four feet. That's down to about the bottom of the two water retention and recycling pools that are currently sitting amid the renovation at about what will again become midfield.
Bob Collier is the stadium project's consultant. He also worked as Seahawks owner Paul Allen's project manager on the $430 million construction of Qwest Field from 2000 to 2002. The downtown stadium, now called CenturyLink Field, is where Washington will play its spring game on Saturday and the 2012 home schedule.
Collier says the enormities of the two projects are similar.
"And the scope of this still impresses me," he said Monday, looking over the entire renovation site while standing at what will become Husky Stadium's new visitors' locker room at the field's southeast corner.
Sarkisian is already excited about the project, 16 months before it is scheduled to be completed.
"(I'm excited for) what the potential is for us down the road from a recruiting standpoint, from a game-day experience standpoint for our fans, and from an efficiency standpoint for a football operations center for us," the fourth-year coach said.
The new stadium's capacity will be about 70,000, with the final number to be set as construction ends, Lydum said. That's about 2,500 short of the old capacity.
But as Woodward noted "that's apples to oranges."
The former stadium's obstructed-view seats at ground level are gone, ground to cement gravel and being recycled as the basis for the new lower north stands. Also gone: The track that separated the field like a rubberized moat, setting the stands far back.
In the new stadium, the stands will be about 45 feet closer to the field with the seating area will begin above sideline personnel. That will make row one a prime-view seat rather than a blocked one.
That is yet another reason Sarkisian believes Washington's new home will be as modern and effective a home-field advantage as exists in college football.
"I'm pumped," Sarkisian said. "I can't believe just kind of what's happening, what's going up. It looks like the south stands are kind of going up already.
"These guys have worked tremendously on the project."
QUICK HITS: TB Bishop Sankey ran for another long touchdown against the first-team defense as the sophomore continues his strong bid to replace some of the production lost with Chris Polk gone to the NFL. "He's had a really good spring practice," Sarkisian said. ... Offensive lineman Siosifa Tufunga broke his hand early in practice, becoming the latest offensive lineman injured. Sarkisian was unsure how long the 313-pound redshirt freshman would be out. C Drew Schaefer returned after missing a week with a sprained knee. The Huskies have also been missing fellow starting linemen Colin Tanigawa (knee surgery), Erik Kohler (banged up from 2011) and Colin Porter (retired because of shoulder injuries). ... Sarkisian said health and preservation concerns may mean an altered format for Saturday's 1 p.m. spring game, which is open to the public at CenturyLink Field. Instead of full purple and white teams, the scrimmage may be similar to practices, with offensive and defensive units mixing and matching. ... UW practices next on Wednesday morning -- next to the cranes and dirt piles again.