SEATTLE -- After more than nine decades during which it hosted Husky football, NFL games, presidential speeches and commencement addresses, Husky Stadium is getting ready to say farewell -- for a time.
The brittle waterfront stadium with a setting nearly impossible to match in all college football will host its final football game, a showdown between Washington and No. 6 Oregon, on Saturday before most of the facility comes tumbling down over the next few months as part of a major renovation. In its place in less than two years will be a $250 million football-only gem, the latest entry into the facility arms race that has swept college football.
"To have a chance to renovate an iconic building is a once in a lifetime opportunity," said O.D. Vincent, University of Washington's Senior Associate Athletic Director. "We will keep the best about what everyone loves about Husky Stadium, but bring it up to modern standards."
Age hasn't been kind to the stadium. The mortar and rock that created the stately lower bowl on the shore of Lake Washington -- the original construction dates to 1920 -- is in a state of decay. Temporary fixes have kept the facility usable for the last decade, but there is only so much a fresh coat of paint and some spackle can hide. Bathrooms are scarce. Concessions are sparse. And luxury boxes are non-existent.
The Husky Stadium renovation, particularly how to pay for the project, was debated for much of the previous decade at a time when Washington's program was at its lowest point in history. The athletic department even went to the state legislature trying to tap money from an existing tax on hotels and rental cars to help pay for the renovation. Plans to try to get the state's authorization for use of King County tax revenues to pay for half of a $300 million remodel were scrapped in the spring of 2010.
Instead, the school pursued private donations to raise a portion of the remodel costs and put out calls for bidders to bring in the most cost-efficient and grand remodel possible. The result will be a new front door to the athletic department and campus, with a football operations center on the west end of the stadium, and seats that have been moved forward to the edge of the action.
The entire lower bowl will be gutted and upgraded, while the upper deck on the south side will be rebuilt with luxury seating, amenities catering to older fans and a press box that isn't suspended from the roof. The noise-trapping cantilever roofs will remain, as will the entire upper deck on the north side of the stadium and the original tunnel the home team walks down for every game.
This will be the first major change to the stadium since 1987 when the upper deck was completed on the north side, bringing in glorious views of Lake Washington and Mount Rainier and adding nearly 15,000 more seats. Even that construction wasn't without its hiccups as the framing for the new addition collapsed during the project, but that's the only part of the current stadium that will remain.
Washington will cut off any use of the stadium beginning Monday. The Apple Cup rivalry game with Washington State and the entire 2012 home schedule will be played across town at the home of the Seattle Seahawks.
If all goes to plan, the Huskies will christen their new dog house Sept. 7, 2013, against Boise State.