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Friday, December 1, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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UW athletic director unveils new Husky Stadium drawings

Seattle Times staff reporter

They have grand visions at the University of Washington of a Husky Stadium without a track keeping fans distanced from the football field.

Of a Husky Stadium with a new upper deck of seats in the west end zone that would include football offices, permanent seating in the east end zone that wouldn't block the view of Lake Washington, and new and improved amenities, concession stands and bathrooms throughout.

But as UW athletic director Todd Turner spent 45 minutes briefing the media Thursday on his dream of what Husky Stadium could be, he also shared the harsh realities that figure to mean the most substantive parts of a possible renovation are likely years away from fruition.

"This is more about possibilities than how we are going to do it or when they will occur," Turner said as the school also made public for the first time some conceptual drawings of what a renovated stadium might look like, as prepared by HOK Sport, the same architecture firm hired earlier in the week by the Sonics to design their proposed arena.

Turner presented the same drawings to the school's Board of Regents two weeks ago. At that time, the Regents authorized Turner to spend the next four to six months honing the project, then to return "with a more concrete plan," including how to fund it.

And that's the $200 million or so question.

Turner said no money has yet been raised for a possible renovation of Husky Stadium, and that it's premature to speculate on the cost, though he said it could be "from zero to hundreds of millions of dollars."

Finding money for what would be the most expensive project in the history of the athletic department doesn't figure to be easy, and Turner said all options are on the table, among them premium seating, ticket surcharges and selling partial naming rights for Husky Stadium as the school did for Bank of America Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

"At the end of the day, you have to figure out how to pay for it," Turner said.

The other roadblocks to construction are pending projects involving the 520 bridge and the building of an underground Sound Transit station at Husky Stadium. The Sound Transit project is due to begin in late 2008 or early 2009 and last until 2014.

Turner said he hopes work on some aspects of Husky Stadium can be done concurrent with the Sound Transit project. But it's also possible that some of the major aspects couldn't be addressed until after that project is completed. Turner said renovating Husky Stadium would likely be done in phases that could last two decades.

Officials at HOK Sport, Turner said, told him that the Sound Transit and 520 projects made renovating Husky Stadium "the most complex transportation challenge" they've ever encountered.

The potential renovation of Husky Stadium is part of a plan to enhance all of the athletic facilities at UW, including completing the soccer and baseball stadiums, improving or replacing the aquatics center, and improving locker rooms and other team areas of Edmundson Pavilion. If the track is moved, it could be relocated around the soccer stadium.

But Husky Stadium is the centerpiece of the project if for no other reason than football brings in about 70 percent of the school's roughly $40 million athletic budget each year.

"We have to focus on what to do about Husky Stadium because it drives the train," Turner said.

Renovating Husky Stadium and improving other football-related facilities, Turner said, "is about competition" and keeping the Huskies on a level playing field with their opponents.

That's particularly crucial right now as the Huskies are attempting to climb out of a hole that has seen the team go 8-26 the last three seasons.

Turner said he doesn't necessarily plan to increase seating at Husky Stadium but said the venue, built in 1920, needs an updating to allow it to serve future generations of fans.

UW coach Tyrone Willingham also attended the news briefing and said he was made aware of the challenges of renovating Husky Stadium when he took the job two years ago, and the importance of getting the football program turned around to help pay for it.

"These things we had talked about when I was being hired," Willingham said. "You understand the magnitude that football plays."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. Read his blogs on Washington football and basketball at www.seattletimes.com/huskies.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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