For 91 years, through three major expansions and updates, through generations of fans, players and coaches at the University of Washington, Husky Stadium has remained an innovative and unique home for UW football.
What other college football venue is inside a major metropolitan center, yet is accessed by boat and has sweeping, postcard views of a lake and a snow-capped mountain range? What other venue can say it has hosted 15 conference champions and four national champions – plus the Goodwill Games, NCAA track and field championships and presidents from Warren Harding to Barack Obama? What other stadium has had Charles Lindbergh buzz overhead in his Spirit of St. Louis before giving a speech in it? Has had noise so loud it registered at the threshold of ear pain? Is credited with being the birthplace of the fan phenomenon known as “The Wave”? Or once had goal posts torn down for a victory – that happened 1,500 miles away?
Not a bad bargain for a $600,000 investment in 1920, eh?
The 2011 season will be the final one for Washington inside Husky Stadium as we know it, before a $250 million renovation begins in November on the oldest stadium in the Pacific-12 Conference. By kickoff of the 2013 season, the UW’s Northwest icon will be transformed into a state-of-the-art stadium with luxury seating, seats closer to the field, a new football operations center attached to it and more.
The new building will add to the extensive, remarkable and uniquely Seattle tradition of Husky Stadium.
"We are very excited about the renovation of Husky Stadium," Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian says. “An enhanced fan experience, while still embracing the great tradition it holds, will all be part of making our football program more competitive.
"The renovation means so much to Husky Football not only from a recruiting and student-athlete development and competition standpoint, but from a fan perspective as well. A renovated Husky Stadium will be the very best college football venue in America. It will give Husky fans something to be very proud of.”
They are already proud of the old place.
Originally known as Washington Field upon construction in 1920, Husky Stadium has been revered for almost a century for its innovative design and unique atmosphere. So much so, it was the model that inspired construction three years later of the venerable Los Angeles Coliseum, a national historic landmark.
Husky Stadium has 72,500 seats. Nearly 70 percent of those seats are located between the end zones under two unique, cantilever roofs, which give UW one of the nation’s loudest venues.
"Husky Stadium when it's filled up, there is no place like it,” current Huskies defensive lineman Kalani Aldrich says.
While Washington won its 17th consecutive game in 1992 against 12th-ranked Nebraska on national television in a rare, rollicking night game, an ESPN sideline crew measured the noise with a meter at 130 decibels. That is the recognized threshold of ear pain and the noise equivalent of being 100 feet away from an accelerating jet.
"Seventy thousand screaming, yelling and stomping--that crowd was probably the biggest difference,” Army defensive tackle Al Roberts said after his Cadets lost a taut game inside Husky Stadium on Sept. 23, 1995, front of an all-time record crowd of 76,125. “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."
Those fans get inside by some of the most unique ways in American sports. Tailgating takes on a whole new meaning at Husky Stadium. Boat moorings are available for fans to travel to Washington games over the water. Members of the Husky crew team shuttle fans back-and-forth between their vessels and the docks in Union Bay of Lake Washington, which washes up a long pass beyond the stadium’s east end zone. Inside, the north upper deck offers sweeping views of Mt. Rainier, the Olympic Mountain Range and downtown Seattle.
Husky Stadium has hosted memorable moments beyond football since the original dedication game on Nov. 27, 1920, against Dartmouth: One of President Warren Harding’s final speeches, six days before he died in 1923; theater performances; the visit by Charles Lindbergh four months after he flew the world’s first solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927; Fourth of July celebrations; major stadium expansions in 1937, 1950 and again in 1987; the 1951 NCAA track and field championships; exhibition games for the National Football League and the American Football League; the 1972 AAU track and field championships; the birth of “The Wave” in the crowd during a game in 1981; the tearing down of goal posts to celebrate a 1982 win – that took place 1,470 miles away at Arizona State but was being seen in the stadium on closed-circuit television; former President Ronald Reagan opening the 1990 Goodwill Games; the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks renting the stadium for their 2000 and ’01 seasons while Qwest Field was being built; and even two games “hosted” by archrival Washington State, in one-game rentals of Husky Stadium against USC in 1972 and Ohio State in ‘74.