Husky Stadium | Shortfall seen for massive remodel
Seattle Times staff reporters
Barring a financial Hail Mary, the University of Washington will dramatically scale back its ambitions for a Husky Stadium makeover.
A committee looking into the aging stadium found a huge gap between projected costs and revenue. To renovate the stadium as envisioned would cost about $415 million, said Dan Evans, the former governor who is heading the committee. But extra donations and increased ticket sales are estimated to bring in just $130 million, he said.
"This is a lot more challenging than it appeared to be a month or two ago," Evans said. "We've finally got some more detailed costs ... and there's a big gap."
The committee gave the reality check to UW Regents on Thursday and is due to present final recommendations to the Regents next month. Barring the discovery of a huge funding source, the committee will likely present a far more modest plan than envisioned.
"There's one thing that we are all certain of — we won't build anything more than what we can pay for," Evans said.
But late Thursday, Washington athletic director Todd Turner remained optimistic about raising more money and completing extensive renovations. He said he would not characterize the new financial figures as a setback.
"It means that there is a manageable piece we can begin with," he said. "We knew all along, from the very start, that there is not a single source of funds that is going to cover the full stadium program."
The original plans called for removing an athletic track, lowering the field and restoring the entire lower bowl, which is about 90 years old. A new press box and club seating would have been added on the south side; locker rooms and staff offices on the west side; and suites above the end zone.
But now there might not even be enough money to remove the athletic track — news that will disappoint football fans who have long desired seating closer to the field.
A more realistic plan would likely add the club seating on the south side — which will bring in extra money from ticket sales — and add a separate building outside of the stadium for locker rooms and staff offices, Evans said.
Extras would be added as finances allowed.
One advantage is that the scaled-back renovation will take less time to complete. Construction could begin after the 2008 season, Evans said, and would likely take a year or two.
The committee continues to look at ways to increase funding and decrease costs. One option is to ask the state to waive sales taxes on the project, which would decrease costs by about 10 percent. Another option would be to sell the stadium naming rights, which could bring in tens of millions of dollars. A third option could be to add student fees.
Turner acknowledged the athletic department, which is self-funded, has not raised any money for the project to date.
"So we've got some work to do," he said.
Evans said the financial picture might look different if the football team was winning more often.
"It's a circular thing," he said. "A winning team sells more seats, helps you build a more modern stadium and gives you a first-class football facility," he said, adding that such upgrades, in turn, help attract top recruits who win games.
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