Huskies ready to debut deluxe new digs

Opulent touches abound in $280 million renovation as amenities align Washington with Pac-12 rivals

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.comAugust 31, 2013 

SEATTLE — Washington athletic director Scott Woodward’s nightmare didn’t come to fruition, which left quarterback Keith Price smiling.

When Washington broke ground in 2011 to begin the grind of the $280 million renovation to Husky Stadium, Woodward wondered. He had concerns from the practical to outlandish, one of which was hoping there wasn’t a Native American burial ground discovered under the stadium.

As construction crews converted the majority of the dilapidated stadium into a massive hole, Woodward’s fears proved unfounded. An unforeseen obstacle that could scuttle the whole project never emerged.

That’s why Price can stand on the new turf in the renovated stadium with the sun bouncing of steel bleachers and talk about his locker. It’s his favorite part.

“It’s unbelievable,” Price said.

Being a quarterback, Price’s locker is bigger than the others. Call it the Griffey model. His name is in gold letters across the top against a purple backdrop, with his hometown, Compton, Calif., to the right. His gleaming gold helmet sits on the top shelf. His white cleats are one shelf down, and his jersey-covered shoulder pads rest on the bench seat.

Price’s nook is a tiny fraction of the expansive renovation’s final cost, projected to be $280.6 million .

The rebuilding of the north stands cost $3.6 million. Gone are the bland concrete turrets and whirring golf carts that previously ushered fans up to their seats. In are more elevators, a flood of flat-screen monitors, LCD displays, new suites and updated sound systems.

Washington will be the sole team coming out of the tunnel now because the visiting locker room has been moved to the northeast corner. If you head up the tunnel from the field and hang a left, the entrance to Washington’s meeting and locker rooms opens up.

Murals approximately 16 feet tall depict Washington coach Steve Sarkisian and the team sprinting onto the field. Each meeting room has a mural with former players specific to each position group adorning it. For instance, the running backs room has Chris Polk and Corey Dillon, among others, displayed along one wall.

Just down the hall is a barber shop with two chairs and a spinning barber’s light outside. Around the corner is the massive weight room, complete with sunken hydrotherapy pools. Between the two ends of the hallway are references to Washington’s two national championships (the Huskies claim the 1960 title, but it was unsanctioned; they shared the 1991 crown with Miami).

Within one rectangular underground stretch, the three prevailing goals of the renovation are encompassed:

One was to produce a new stadium that could compete with dramatic structures, like the Ducks’ home in Eugene, Ore., and elsewhere. The others were to preserve links to Washington’s past and add vibrant new elements to boost its future, without being gauche or gaudy.

“We can compete with anyone now, as far as facilities,” Woodward said. “This is as good as it gets. It’s done in a way that fits who we are.”

With the project complete, Woodward will not shy from applying pressure. The Huskies have been 7-6 for three consecutive seasons. They now have a top-tier facility. Woodward feels the foundation has been laid for advancement.

“We want to win championships, and this is what this facility’s about and this is how we are going to get there,” Woodward said.

Woodward was hired in 2008 and sat flabbergasted as an 0-12 season took place.

That mess helped boost renovation fundraising, enabling Woodward to plead his case to donors.

“I think the realization was we had to do it and the program was in really dire straits at the time,” Woodward said. “They knew something had to change and they had to believe.”

The original budget for the project was $250 million. Washington added a $10.9 million UW Sports Medicine Center and $22.3 million in other “elective investments.”

Woodward said the additions didn’t need to be approved by the school’s board of regents and that they will have a minimal impact on the debt repayment structure. He also added most of the additional costs – similar to the majority of the original costs – will be paid back through new revenues. The school projects $230.6 million in revenues to go with $51.8 million in donations.

Sarkisian touts multiple aspects of the renovated stadium. The football operations center, replete with a recruiting lounge perched atop the west end, gives his staff a new home. The layout beneath has streamlined access to the players’ facilities.

Yet, he know there is one overarching factor.

“What’s really going to make it special is how we play,” Sarkisian said. @Todd_Dybas

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