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Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dawgs and their new digs

Times staff columnist

Barbara Hedges carried a rose as she walked through the arched portals of Edmundson Pavilion.

"I'm not sure it can get any better than this," said Hedges, Washington's athletic director.

Her gamble to hire Rick Neuheisel away from Colorado had paid off in a Rose Bowl.

Now her gamble to renovate a 73-year-old building on campus had delivered a basketball arena that is remarkably newer and older than it was, expanding capacity to 10,000 seats while exposing a ceiling and arched windows not seen for 40 years.

The women's basketball team will unveil the new Edmundson Pavilion on Friday night against top-ranked Connecticut, the men playing their baptismal game the next afternoon against New Mexico State.

The Hedges legacy is falling into place. She conceived a $94 million series of capital improvements, of which the centerpiece would be the $43 million renovation of Edmundson Pavilion.

"I remember when I got here (in 1991), walking out to the old baseball field past the driving range," she said. "It was really bad and needed to be replaced. And we had no soccer or softball stadiums."

They are all in place now. Construction is also under way on the massive, $28 million indoor practice facility near the crew house. The crew house will undergo a facelift to be an athlete academic and dining center.

The indoor practice facility will provide what Edmundson Pavilion no longer does, a running track and covered space to throw and catch balls of all

types.

"There is no doubt in my mind," said June Daugherty, UW women's basketball coach, "that this is the best basketball facility on the West Coast."

When the Huskies embarked on the idea of renovating their field house, they visited Oklahoma State, Kansas, Northwestern and Duke. They liked Duke.

They wanted to retain tradition. Besides, they had nowhere else to build a new arena.

Judsen Marquardt, a partner of LMN architects that designed the remodel, said the cost of a new 10,000-seat arena would be twice the $43 million the university spent.

Before its remodel, Edmundson Pavilion, according to Marquardt, was neither "modern nor historical, each modernization over the years incrementally eroding the pavilion's character."

Asked to put the renovation in context, Bob Bender, the Husky men's basketball coach who played and coached at Duke, said, "because of its size, the building itself surpasses anything you could do at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"We tried in the past not to let facilities be a negative in our recruiting, but now they can be a positive. You try to push the right buttons in recruiting, and this building will be a big one."

Years ago, Mike Lude, the athletic director, dismissed the idea of Edmundson Pavilion ever being fully updated because of an inability to remove the 20 columns holding up the roof and blocking the views.

"John Skilling told me it was possible," Hedges said, "and he was right."

It was Skilling, who died two years ago at 76, who had designed the new north grandstand at Husky Stadium and would later draw the plans for the indoor practice facility on the back of a napkin.

"He loved structural engineering, and he loved the university," said Jon Magnusson of Skilling Ward Magnusson and Barkshire. It was Magnusson, in fact, who came up with the idea of using stilts to move the roof at Safeco Field, allowing the left-field wall to be lowered and the park to feel like a real outdoor park when the roof was open.

Magnusson's firm designed the two roof-supporting trusses that span Edmundson Pavilion and in essence hold up the roof.

An architecture critic called the feat of assembling and positioning the 243-foot-long trusses inside Edmundson Pavilion "like building a ship in a bottle."

The result is a new, intimate, and traditional building. Scott Redman of Sellen Construction called the renovation "bringing back to life a piece of a city's tradition."

Earlier, Sellen had worked on renovations of the Olympic Hotel and the Paramount Theater.

The seats at Edmundson Pavilion are closer to the floor than they are at KeyArena because no compromise had to be made for the playing of hockey.

Half the seats are the chair type; 3,000 are bleachers with backs; and 2,000, including those of the students who sit on the floor along one sideline, are bleachers without backs.

All the seats are relatively near the floor, although views of the scoreboard are blocked by the trusses from the top four rows of bleacher seats.

Besides the basketball arena, there is a new practice court behind the arena's east wall, eight new meeting rooms, a Hall of Fame Room, and a Founders Club for those who donate $25,000 or more.

Hedges still has $10 million to raise.

"We've done well, and there's no reason to think we won't continue to," she said.

Not with the football team on its way to the Rose Bowl and Edmundson Pavilion more than a dream on a drawing board.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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