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Extreme makeover

New Washington AD considers ambitious Husky Stadium renovations

Posted: Thursday October 14, 2004 3:03PM; Updated: Thursday October 14, 2004 3:26PM
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SEATTLE (AP) -- It didn't take long for newly hired Washington athletic director Todd Turner to dive into an ambitious project.

Three months into the job, Turner is examining preliminary plans to renovate venerable Husky Stadium. He views it as important work, not just for Washington's campus and fans but also for college football.

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"It's a unique, powerful place -- kind of a West Coast version of Notre Dame Stadium," Turner said. "It's like the Big House at Michigan or Ohio Stadium at Ohio State. It has things about it that are intangible and invaluable. We need to preserve that."

The main structure of the stadium dates to 1920, and most problems are age-related. Some areas are crumbling after decades of exposure to wind and Seattle's famed rainfall.

It's too early in the project to specify exactly what would be involved or how much it would cost.

Turner knows this much: it won't be cheap.

"It's probably going to cost tens of millions of dollars, maybe even $100 million. I don't know," he said. "You don't want to build more than you can pay for, so we need to come up with a plan."

Two conceptual plans have been drawn by architects. One features boxed-in seating rising over the west end zone. Another maintains the traditional horseshoe shape but moves seats closer to the field.

Currently, the stadium is expansive because of a track that will be removed with any renovation. For years, seats in the west stands have been distant -- about 40 yards from the end zone.

What's the best way to fix things? Turner said it's a blank slate.

"How you're going to fund it is the first issue," he said. "The second issue is what are you going to do? In what priority? And when? Do we need more seats? Fewer seats? Do you need suites? A new press box?

"I don't have answers to those questions," he said.

Sight lines will be improved and weathered chairs replaced. The stadium could use upgrades to concessions and restrooms, as well as improved access for the disabled.

"All the things you take for granted need some work," Turner said. "The plumbing springs leaks. Even the scoreboard has its bugs."

Turner said in meetings with boosters, there's support for renovations. It's unknown how much fans are willing to donate, especially with Washington's football team 1-4, struggling to its worst start in 35 years.

"The people who love Washington sports will decide if we can do these things or not," Turner said. "If there's a way to expand our own resources without gifts, we're going to do that, too."

Don't forget former athletic director Barbara Hedges spent recent years raising money to build an $18 million rowing shell house, which includes an academic center for Washington's student-athletes.

Turner suggested corporate partnerships as one possibility to fund a stadium renovation. He also said any work will be included in a long-range plan for all of Washington's athletic facilities.

An outside review earlier this year determined that despite recent improvements, Washington's facilities were below average when compared with other schools in the nation's six major Division I-A conferences.

While many Washington facilities are first-rate, sports like baseball, soccer and swimming need improvements, and the school will need a new place for the track when it's removed from Husky Stadium.

It will be at least three years before any construction could start.

"It's an enormous challenge, but an important one," Turner said.

Without question, Husky Stadium is different from other on-campus college football stadiums, from its Lake Washington setting to the cantilevered roofs that cover the north and south stands.

"People take a lot of pride in its nuances -- the covered seating, the view of the lake, the vistas of Seattle," Turner said.

It's Turner's job to figure out how to make it even better -- and more importantly to figure out how to pay for it.

"That's what being an athletic director is about," he said.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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