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?
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.