Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ten Things To Look Forward To

1. Lowering the Field and Bringing the Fans Closer to the Action
I grew up with the track, and it never really bothered me till I started going to road games and seeing stadiums with fan seating closer to the field. Being right on top of the action should be the first step of any renovation project. I was puzzled when Turner said that it might not make the first phase. If you don't start with replacing the lower bowl you aren't really going anywhere. If you look at the conceptual drawing you see the new intimacy that will be created. Husky Stadium can be very noisy. This redesign if implemented will make it the noisiest by far in the country.

Imagine sitting in an individual plastic seat rather than squeezing together on benches. Imagine having enough room in front of you so the person passing you doesn't fall in your lap. Imagine having wider walkways, and better ingress, and egress to the concourse.

What all that does is get people into the stadium earlier where they are probably spending money because they don't have to wait in line 40 minutes to get a hot dog. It improves the atmosphere inside the stadium. One of the biggest complaints people have about the support of the team is that too many fans are not in their seats before kickoff. Sure the record of the team has something to do with it, but avoiding the masses squeezing in is a big part of it. If you make it intriguing, and comfortable enough inside like they are planning people will get their earlier, and stay longer.

No more track, no more moat, and no more obstructed view seats. It goes without saying that this is the most important part of the project, and it will be the most important to all ticket holders.

2. The Old Upper Deck

The South side of the stadium is currently an embarrassment. Have you ever gone to the restrooms in there? It's absolutely disgusting. The concourse which seemed so large when I was a kid is dark, smelly, and cramped. The lack of revenue producing opportunities is appalling.

A complete refurbishment of this section of the stadium will happen under the new plan. All the seating of course will be reconfigured with a special club section for high rollers in the prime seats.

Notice the covered parking garage behind the South Deck in the drawing? On top of that puppy you are going to have a lot of open space to work with adjacent to the existing concourses. The UW could really do a lot of stuff with this area. Imagine parking your car in the garage and taking the elevator, or escaltor to the mezzanine level. You can tailgate pretty good on rainy day in a garage, and you can go up to the party concourse before the game quite easily.

3. The West Upper Deck

Take a good look at that Western end zone. This pretty much guarantee's every ticket holder in the stadium a great view with the addition of more covered seating. The West end zone roof will really deflect noise back on to the field. The seats are going to be brought in close to the playing field, and an upper deck will increase visibility dramatically in the cheap seats. A real upper and lower concourse to serve this side of the stadium will be built along with the seating. This going to put the stadium entrance a little closer to Montlake.

Montlake Avenue of course will be undergoing major renovations of its own as part of the Sound Transit Station, and the 520 project. I have always wanted Montlake Avenue to be more of a pedestrian plaza. The plans of course are not even close to being agreed on at this point, but running some, or all traffic under a lid from the Montlake Bridge past Hec Edmundson would reduce congestion, and give the UW more ways to expand out from the increased footprint of the West endzone.

4. The East End Zone

Those sweeping views of Lake Washington are going to be preserved under this plan. The mish mash of of aluminum bleachers across the running track is going bye bye. The East end zone will now be part of the new bowl which will encircle the stadium. Low Level seating and a seperate concourse will spread traffic around the outer edge of the stadium reducing congestion within. The main scoreboard may be replaces with two new video scoreboards placed on the angles which would not block the view.

5. Food, Restaurants, Shopping, and Restrooms

I mentioned the food service earlier, and what a nightmare it is in there, not to mention the very average quality of most of the products served. Most of that has to due with the poor facilities they have to work with coupled by the lack of space.

The West and South sides provide the opportunity to get it right in the same manner as the stadiums downtown. You could conceivably have room for restaurants in addition to improved menus and services. This part of the stadium will have increased pedestrian space that is going to open up a lot of opportunities in these areas.

I would love to see a couple club type full service restaurants that could open up on the South, and West sides of the stadium.

You are finally going to have adequate bathrooms in every part of the stadium. The old bowl holds the footprint for most of the restrooms in the facility. We are talking a 1920 plan here. The new bowl will allow designers to build on completely new footprints. There will be more restrooms, and there will be modern restrooms. Currently only the upper deck on the Northside house the only decent restrooms.

6. Press, Coaches, and Presidential Boxes

The view from the Washington press box is one of probably the very best in the country. It also isn't very comfortable up there. The boxes are pretty cramped and spartan by modern day standards. Would you really want to be up there during a 7.2 earthquake? Nothing special going on about the food up there either according to Chris Fetters.

7. Locker Rooms and Office Space

In this day of age a new locker room is just gold when it comes to recruiting. Take a look at what they did at Oregon, it is pretty amazing even if it seems way over the top. The thing is the Ducks got a lot of publicity, but it wasn't nearly as way over the top as facilites at Texas, and Nebraska to name a few. Everytime someone builds a new locker room it is going to be a showpiece. The new locker rooms at UW will be politically correct, but a dramatic improvement over what we currently have which isn't too shabby by the way.

Jim Lambright always dreamed of an office overlooking the field from the West endzone. I am not exactly sure of the location, but new coaches, and administrative offices are part of the plan. What a fantastic place to talk to a recruit and his family while replays from Husky history play in the background on the scoreboard. I know they have remodeled the office over in Tubby Graves and built the Legends Center but this is going to a be a big step up.

8. Parking

How big is the parking garage going to be?

Will it be built in the first phase, or will they wait to see what happens with 520?

A 5,000 car parking garage would require around 2,000,000 square feet, and would have up to eight levels. You are talking a footprint of 500 by 500 feet for a building that size which would be two to three levels above ground, with the rest below. If I remember correctly the UW would be compensated by the state for any intrusions on the south parking lot. That money would go for things like the mitigation of lost parking which would likely go toward building the garage.

Whatever they do they need to put public space on top of the structure, not cars. It needs to be open space that serves as a pedestrian plaza before games. It needs to help increased the footprint on the Southside concourses.

520 is likely going to change this side of the stadium in the next decade, lets hope we can mitigate any loss of open space.

9. Sound Transit

One of the main complaints Montlake residents have about Husky game days are the traffic it generates. The Sound Transit station that will be built next to Husky Stadium is really going to add to the uniqueness of the facility. People from Northgate to Federal Way will eventually be able to travel to games without the hassle of finding, and paying for parking. Moving people more efficiently through the neighborhood, and around the city will really help the traffic, and improve game day at Montlake.

Every time I fly into Sea-Tac I have found it absurd that there isn't any reliable mass transit into the city for travelers. You find it in almost every major city but Seattle. It is going to be great when the line is finished with service to downtown, followed by Husky Stadium. I won't even need a car anymore when I pop in for a game. It is going to be a hassle while they are building it, but it is going to be great when it is finished.

10. Highway 520

Does anyone really know when they are going to kick off 520 contruction? Does anyone really know what the final plan will end up like? Will there be a sweeping overpass in Union Bay in front of the stadium descending into either the South Parking lot, or University Village? How will it effect Montlake Avenue? Lots of things are being kicked around, but one thing is for sure. $6 tolls are coming to the 520 bridge sooner than later.

I would like to see a six lane plan with as little encroachment on the south parking lot of the stadium as possible. I would also like to have the bridge built to handle light rail. If you are going to build it, build it right from the get go with all the parts you need at one time. One thing is becoming more, and more obvious. Whichever plan they do finally come up with will likely intrude on the South parking lot. 520 has been the wildcard so far. It is imperitive that UW finishes it's stadium renovations by the time that project kicks off in 2012 or later.


bigdave967 said...

2 amazing posts in a row...cant wait until tomorrow's...

I am going to try my hardest to get to a game next year, just to see the old stadium once more before it gets renovated. I am hoping for Oregon while its still nice out.

Carroll signed with the UW...hopefully we can round out the class with Donovan Carter (linebacker who de-committed from UCLA).

John Berkowitz said...

I am just trying to put on paper everything I know and think about the stadium project.

I saw the old stadium this year, and it wasn't exactly a treat. I couldn't believe low the excitement level was, or how shabby the place was starting to look.

I saw Notre Dame the year before they added 20,000 seats, and it was dramatically different when I came back again to see them play.

Wider concourses with modern egress, and ingress really help the layout without diminishing the existing character.