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The University of Washington has unveiled its eye-popping, new $280 million football stadium. What's missing might be more significant than what's added.
Gone is the running track that separated fans from the field.
"When the stadium was built in 1920, that was the standard to have a track around the football field but since then there are almost no more of those kind of fields out there," said Jeff Bechthold, UW director of athletic communications. "Removing that track, in and of itself, and bringing the fans that much closer to the field makes for a much better viewing experience."
The new Husky Stadium also includes lowering the playing surface so that people in the first few rows can actually see the game over the tops of the ballplayers and others standing on the sidelines. Seats include an average five inches of added legroom.
Bechthold, led a media tour, and conceded that crews are still working on finishing touches but said Husky Stadium is game ready.
"Not to say there won't be a glitch here or there, I think that's inevitable in any new facility."
The renovated stadium has a lower capacity of 70,138 fans but that includes more than 4,000 premium seats. The UW expects to recover about $230 million in construction costs from new revenues. That required moving the student section from prime seating at mid-field to a new area above the west end zone.
"But we think we've given them a very good experience in exchange for that," said Bechthold. "Lower prices for the concessions, the fact that this section is much closer to the field than it used to be." He calls them "darn good seats."
The new building includes 882 in-stadium toilets, that's an increase of more than 100 from the old stadium. The 21-month renovation included demolition of the entire lower bowl and southern grandstand. The new facility features modern, wide concourses and lots of special touches.
"The finishing touches, the wood, the decor is something that didn't necessarily have to be done in terms of impressing the high end donor or recruit but are very nice, good-looking northwest style touches that I think will impress your average fan," said Bechthold.
Behind the grandstands and beneath the stadium, fans won't see the big improvements to player and coaches amenities: big locker stalls, therapy pools, meeting rooms with cushy seats, new coaches offices, a recruiting lounge. The UW says it needs these upgrades to compete with the "Oregons" of the college sports world.