With most staffers as new to stadium as fans, the first game had hiccups. Once seated, however, roominess of seats and proximity to the field were as big a hit as the field triumph.
A group of University of Washington football boosters crammed into the foyer near the edge of Husky Stadium’s main concourse, a pinch of sunlight shining through the west end. It was 6:30 p.m., still a half-hour before the Huskies officially opened their renovated home against Boise State. It was still hot.
The high-rollers were pissed.
“From the vernacular of your generation, this is called a group-f–. This is coming from a 76-year-old lady,” shouted a woman waiting for one of four elevators to take her to her suite.
The ushers tasked with what was quickly turning into an arthritic mob couldn’t do much to quiet the complaints. Panicked-looking workers directed some left, others right. A supervisor yelled at a chef for taking a massive pizza burner up the elevator with a group of reporters.
The rebuilt west end was as foreign to the stadium staff as it was the fans trying to find their way around.
Working out the kinks that go along with pouring $280 million into a college football palace proved challenging. A lot was new, so fewer knew what was going on.
But those not forced into the indignity of having to wait an extra five to 10 minutes before making it into their luxury suite, likely stocked with high-end booze and food, were actually pleased with the result of the renovations.
“You know what I loved hearing? That Keith Price doesn’t want to leave the grounds. It’s very accommodating for recruits and players to hang out,” said Brad Battiste, an 11-year UW season ticket holder from Bellevue.
Most others were quick to point out they liked the absence of the track that used to separate the stands from the sidelines. Gone too are the wooden benches that mandated fans bring their own seat cushion to avoid a sore hind-side.
“The benches weren’t that comfortable,” Battiste said.
“It was just old, dude,” added Kirby Ingram, a senior accounting major at the UW. “I’ve been to a lot of stadiums, but I think this is the best in college football. Absolutely.”
At the very least, renovations improved the fan experience for many when they reached their seats, though they didn’t prevent others the chance to reminisce.
“What was nice about the (old) bleachers was you could squeeze some friends in, and not worry about it,” Battiste said.
Others enjoyed the added breathing room, whether it the wider concourses or improved seating.
“One of the things that’s better is there is more leg room in the aisles. It was really cramped in the old stadium,” said Patrick McDevitt, a Seattle resident.
The setting for the relaunch was perfect: 75 degrees and no wind at kick-0ff. To the east, Lake Washington glistened with an estimated 300 sailgaters.
The football offices behind the students seated in the west end zone bore a silver reflection, the blacked-out windows a sleek representation of what’s become increasingly important throughout college football: Presentation.
“It’s kind of a bummer in a way,” said Kasra Soltani, a Kirkland native. “Hopefully this is where it stops. The whole commercializing of college sports is what brings the money in. I get it, but at the same time, you kind of lose a bit of what went away with the old stadium.”