BY Art Thiel 06:54PM 08/10/2011

Thiel: UW stadium funding nearing goal line

In a bad economy, UW has raised $42 million of the $50 million in private donations needed to remodel Husky Stadium. Who said our priorities are out of whack?

The new-look Husky Stadium to open in 2013 / University of Washington

For those seeking  a little good economic news, step away from your radioactive 401(k) statement and check out this fact from Husky Stadium:

Somehow the football program has managed to raise $42 million of its targeted $50 million in private donations that is part of the $250 million remodel of Husky Stadium scheduled to open for the 2013 season.

“I’m very pleased,” said UW athletic director Scott Wooodward Wednesday. “It’s humbling in this economy.”

Indeed, the man should be on his knees, offering thanks to whatever cosmic forces are at work that can pry that kind of cash for a building that fills up only seven times a year, plus graduation ceremonies.

However perversely as some see it, passion for sports is nearly endless. If only Congress and the president could raise this kind of cash. Then again, they couldn’t possibly organize themselves well enough to get to 6-6 and a bowl game.

Woodward and several school officials introduced a new website, HuskyStadium.com, which shows virtual views of the largest single capital project in the school’s history. To no surprise, the emphasis is on pretty pictures of premium seating — 25 luxury suites, 30 patio suites,  2,500 in Club Husky and 3,000 Tyee Club seats.

Yes, it’s Rodeo Drive for mossbacks, but the people who can afford to indulge these things mean that no one else is forced into it.

Keep in mind three things about this project:

*The public building is 92 years old and looks at least 115, making it older and less efficient than even the Washington State Ferry system.  For all the sentiment around the relic, it is a decrepit dump. If you don’t believe it, ask any woman who’s ever had to pee there.

*The remodel is privately funded. Besides the $50 million in philanthropy, the remaining $200 million will be financed through the university’s 30-year bonds.  Woodward took pains to assure that the interest rate is locked in, thus not subject to horrors of Mordor that the worldwide economy is about to enter.

*Football pays the bills for the other 20 varsity sports at UW. Given the riches from the new television contract the Pac-12 Conference signed with Fox and ESPN, football may end up paying for the rest of the university as well. Not saying that’s a good thing, but when all else is failing, the economy can count on three things: Porn, drugs and sports. The university has to lead in something legal.

In hindsight — actually, there was some foresight on this too –  it’s a shame the university didn’t go right away for funding the remodel privately. You may recall that UW officials twice approached the Legislature for public money, only to have the door slammed so hard that it knocked the scowl off the face of former football coach Tyrone Willingham.

Since the robust days of the 1990s economy, which helped build giant football and baseball stadiums downtown, there has been no public money for more sports stadiums, as Sonics owner Howard Schultz discovered. Unfortunately for the UW, it received no offer to relocate to Oklahoma City.

The condition of Husky Stadium made the best argument of all sports venues for funding, but there weren’t half a dozen electeds in Olympia will to risk political capital on the changed climate regarding taxes.

Had the UW gone inward instead of outward for money, the project might have been done already, thus avoiding simultaneous development with another huge construction project — the university light-rail station, a big dig going on now next to the stadium that will not be done until 2015.

When stadium demolition begins in November, Montlake will be little more than dump trucks and cranes. And don’t forget — it’s a hospital zone.

In that time, the highest-paid university employee should not be football coach Steve Sarkisian, but the stop/slow flag person standing on Montlake Boulevard.

Even though $250 million is actually a fairly modest sum for an almost complete remodel, is it worth it in a world with so many competing amusements?

That’s the point, Woodward said.

“I’m worried about losing (fans) to the leather coach and big screen TV,” he said. “The stadium experience has to be better.”

That’s why there will be HD wi-fi, party platforms, better concessions, an immense scoreboard and enough toilets that customers will miss only a series instead of a quarter.

It has to be better than home, as well as Century Link Field, the Seahawks’ home, where Huskies fans will spend 2012 discovering the pleasures of having 33 inches of legroom instead of 27 inches.  That alone is worth the 50 large.


YourThoughts

  • guano

    I enjoy your liberal viewpoint, it is hard to understand why the gov’t can’t provide everything, free tuition for all, no federal income taxes (already 51% don’t pay any), full pensions for all gov’t employees, all unions get Obamacare exceptions (oops, too late, they all got them plus most states and many large corps.).  Art, what kind of country are these silly cut spending folks trying to become?  Greece????

  • Michael Kaiser

    Oh, Art, are you now even going to use the increasing popular animal-like terminology for a woman using the restroom–”pee”?  Come on, you already are cool.

  • Michael Kaiser

    Oh, Art, are you now even going to use the increasing popular animal-like terminology for a woman using the restroom–”pee”?  Come on, you already are cool.

  • Gc Rolander

    UW has managed to do what few other sports organizations–college or professional–have managed, and is doing a major stadium remodel solely with private funds… and Art still bitches. Who are you to judge how people spend their own money? Do you donate all your extra pennies to “meaningful” causes, Art? When you aren’t bloviating in your tiresome columns are you out feeding the homeless on your own dime? No? Then get over yourself.  

    As far as I can tell, Art’s only journalistic talent is his nearly super-natural ability to suck the enjoyment out of any positive story.

    • Mikejones02

      i agree 100 percent what a clown.

  • Gc Rolander

    UW has managed to do what few other sports organizations–college or professional–have managed, and is doing a major stadium remodel solely with private funds… and Art still bitches. Who are you to judge how people spend their own money? Do you donate all your extra pennies to “meaningful” causes, Art? When you aren’t bloviating in your tiresome columns are you out feeding the homeless on your own dime? No? Then get over yourself.  

    As far as I can tell, Art’s only journalistic talent is his nearly super-natural ability to suck the enjoyment out of any positive story.

    • Mikejones02

      i agree 100 percent what a clown.

  • Don James

    Ignore the fools Art.  They missed reading comprehension.  It was snarky, far from personal.  Some guys get worked up over anything…. they squat to pee. 

    • Michael Kaiser

      If you are the real Don James, I always have wanted to ask you if you hold yourself responsible at all for what happened to the UW football program these past fifteen years or so as a result of your throwing a hissy fit and abandoning your players and team weeks before the start of a season?

    • Michael Kaiser

      And, by the way, I did think after the fact that the tone of my comment to Art–not the content–was arguably unnecessary.  However, as for my question to you, everything holds.

    • Michael Kaiser

      Lastly, if you do decide to respond, please confine your response to my question, not how upper campus, or whomever, “betrayed” you, which, as an aside, I find rather humorous coming from someone who walked off on his football team weeks before the start of a season.

      • Todd

        I love reading ignorance on the internet.

        • Michael Kaiser

          In fact, the more I think about it, I can not recall in the history of college football a coach walking out on his team weeks before the start of a season.  However, I am sure such a lowlife exists.

        • Michael Kaiser

          One last thing:  With regard to any argument that somehow what James did was justified in part by some personal statement he wanted to make and that, furthermore, the players do, or did, not hold it against him; the players are just one small part of a much larger equation including the University, Athletic Department, team, community, etc. that must be taken into account when assessing the impact of James’ decision to storm off.  Furthermore, deep inside, what do you think mattered more to the players once you wash away the emotion of their leanings on the issue–James stomping off and “making a point” or having the coach they came to play for remain as the coach?  

          • Ed

            That situation was far more complex than you know.

  • Don James

    Ignore the fools Art.  They missed reading comprehension.  It was snarky, far from personal.  Some guys get worked up over anything…. they squat to pee. 

    • Michael Kaiser

      If you are the real Don James, I always have wanted to ask you if you hold yourself responsible at all for what happened to the UW football program these past fifteen years or so as a result of your throwing a hissy fit and abandoning your players and team weeks before the start of a season?

    • Michael Kaiser

      And, by the way, I did think after the fact that the tone of my comment to Art–not the content–was arguably unnecessary.  However, as for my question to you, everything holds.

    • Michael Kaiser

      Lastly, if you do decide to respond, please confine your response to my question, not how upper campus, or whomever, “betrayed” you, which, as an aside, I find rather humorous coming from someone who walked off on his football team weeks before the start of a season.

      • Todd

        I love reading ignorance on the internet.

        • Michael Kaiser

          In fact, the more I think about it, I can not recall in the history of college football a coach walking out on his team weeks before the start of a season.  However, I am sure such a lowlife exists.

        • Michael Kaiser

          One last thing:  With regard to any argument that somehow what James did was justified in part by some personal statement he wanted to make and that, furthermore, the players do, or did, not hold it against him; the players are just one small part of a much larger equation including the University, Athletic Department, team, community, etc. that must be taken into account when assessing the impact of James’ decision to storm off.  Furthermore, deep inside, what do you think mattered more to the players once you wash away the emotion of their leanings on the issue–James stomping off and “making a point” or having the coach they came to play for remain as the coach?  

          • Ed

            That situation was far more complex than you know.

  • Pingback: Getting to know the new Husky Stadium |

  • Noone

    Art, this is a long ways from the biggest capital project in the school’s history. The new dorms they’re building are over three times that amount, for example.

  • Noone

    Art, this is a long ways from the biggest capital project in the school’s history. The new dorms they’re building are over three times that amount, for example.

  • EugCox

    I gotta call B.S. on the $ ideas here.  WSU spent the general-account on sports, and then there general funding refunded from the D.S. legislature.  So the UW tries to be honest, and asks for some of the tax money that the UW sports game make happen…… and then WSU lobbies against Seattle taxes being used for Seattle fixes….. and the D.S. legislature says “no”, to using some of Seattle taxes for Husky Stadium.

    Do your research, Art.  We have had more than enough of poor/lazy “work” from you.

  • EugCox

    I gotta call B.S. on the $ ideas here.  WSU spent the general-account on sports, and then there general funding refunded from the D.S. legislature.  So the UW tries to be honest, and asks for some of the tax money that the UW sports game make happen…… and then WSU lobbies against Seattle taxes being used for Seattle fixes….. and the D.S. legislature says “no”, to using some of Seattle taxes for Husky Stadium.

    Do your research, Art.  We have had more than enough of poor/lazy “work” from you.

  • Frank N. Blunt

    So this will be paid only with stadium generated revenue?  No impact on tuition and other costs to students?  What is the total of the interest payments and many generations pass until the financing is amortized?
    Bet this is another Goldman Sachs spin on benefiting the community happy story.

  • Frank N. Blunt

    So this is expected to be paid only with stadium generated and other privately raised revenue?  Supposedly no impact on tuition or other additional costs to students?  I have seen that the proposal was for $250 mil with total of the interest payments and fees amounting to about $179 mil requiring $14.3 mil annually to service; but the initial $50 mil raised was from various promotions including the so-called ego trip opportunites to name parts of the stadium. The present generation seems to impose demands, indebtedness, and restrictions on future generations. What if people decline attendance because they either can’t afford access, perceive better value in other activities, or reached their limit with the people and situation creating broadened socio-econ disparity? Seems imminent for ScAmerica.
    Bet this is another Goldman Sachs spin on benefiting the community happy story. Deeper and deeper it goes …

  • guano

    I enjoy your liberal viewpoint, it is hard to understand why the gov’t can’t provide everything, free tuition for all, no federal income taxes (already 51% don’t pay any), full pensions for all gov’t employees, all unions get Obamacare exceptions (oops, too late, they all got them plus most states and many large corps.).  Art, what kind of country are these silly cut spending folks trying to become?  Greece????