UW hopes to renovate Husky Stadium without taxpayer help

  • Fri May 14th, 2010 2:03pm
  • Sports

By GREGG BELL AP Sports Writer

SEATTLE — The University of Washington has decided to try to renovate Husky Stadium without the help of taxpayers.

Former Gov. Dan Evans, chairman of the Husky Stadium advisory committee, was waiting Friday afternoon for the school to send a unique, open request for construction proposals to contractors.

The university is soliciting varying design ideas with maximum costs attached, due back to the school July 1. Then it hopes to choose from about five plans and begin remodeling the 90-year-old stadium the day after this year’s home football schedule ends on Nov. 18.

“This is a different kind of building process. We’re putting out requests for bids,” Evans said. “When we pick a developer, it will be based not necessarily on the lowest cost. The proposal is really seeking the best value for what we can get.”

Evans said he thinks the project can cost less than $250 million, with new football locker room and meeting rooms included.

The UW’s new plan is an attempt to take advantage of rock-bottom construction costs and interest rates in a soft economy.

It scraps the idea of getting the state’s authorization for use of King County tax revenues to pay for half of a $300 million remodel of the Pac-10’s oldest football facility. The state Legislature has refused to consider that plan for a vote.

“I think it was unconscionable of the Legislature to deny King County from making its own decision. They don’t have any money in Olympia, but they want all the power,” Evans said in a phone interview. “But that’s the way it is.”

Washington wants to replace the 72,500-seat stadium’s lower bowl, remove the track that currently rings the field and pushes back seats and sight lines, lower the field by seven feet, add revenue-producing premium seating, modernize concessions and restroom areas and add a new locker room and meeting rooms for the football team.

The UW is trying to raise $50 million to $60 million in private donations for the new locker room and meeting rooms then have bonds paid off by new seat licenses to cover the project’s remaining $150 to $200 million. Evans thinks the bonds will need to be guaranteed by the university as whole — he doesn’t think the self-sustaining athletic department has enough resources to back the project on its own.

“We couldn’t do this if construction costs and interest rates for bonds hadn’t gone through the floor,” Evans said. “The biggest change (with this plan from the one Olympia rejected) is what we’ve seen happen in the economy.”

The Huskies would play the 2011 season downtown at Qwest Field, the home of the NFL’s Seahawks. The Huskies would return to campus for the 2012 season, in a refurbished stadium that could have as many as 12,000 fewer seats.

There’s a possibility the chosen design plan will call for new premium seating that would remove some grandstand seats. And a contractor may decide the upper deck on the older south side needs to be torn down and completely rebuilt while a new press box is installed.

In other words, the project remains open-ended. So does its unveiling date.

Washington’s first home game in 2012 is currently scheduled to be Sept. 1 against lower-division Portland State. The former governor said he chided Washington athletic director Scott Woodward that the AD will want a more marquee game than that to show off a new stadium.

So the unveiling may come a few weeks into the season — say, Sept. 15 against Stanford — or the schedule may be rearranged.

Of course, that’s assuming the university gets a design and a cost it likes within the next eight weeks.

“We’re in an unusual position right now,” Evans said. “We’ve talked to construction people, and they say everyone is so hungry for work they are going to bid this down to the bone.”