Husky Stadium

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This article is about the University of Washington stadium. For other uses, see Husky Stadium (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Huskie Stadium, the home football field of Northern Illinois University.
Husky Stadium
"The Greatest Setting in College Football"
Husky stadium from Lake Washington.JPG
Husky Stadium in July 2015 as seen from Lake Washington
Location 3800 Montlake Blvd NE Seattle WA 98105
Coordinates 47°39′1″N 122°18′6″W / 47.65028°N 122.30167°W / 47.65028; -122.30167Coordinates: 47°39′1″N 122°18′6″W / 47.65028°N 122.30167°W / 47.65028; -122.30167
Public transit Link light rail University of Washington station
Owner University of Washington
Operator University of Washington
Capacity 30,000 (1920–1935)
40,000 (1936–1949)
55,000 (1950–1967)
58,000 (1968–1986)
72,500 (1987–2011)
70,138 (2013)
70,083 (2014–present)[1]
Surface Dirt (1920–1937)
Natural grass (1938–1967)
AstroTurf (1968–1999)
FieldTurf (2000–present)
Broke ground May 17, 1920[2]
Opened November 27, 1920
Renovated 1950, 1987, 2013
Expanded 1936, 1950, 1968, 1987
Construction cost $600,000
($7.17 million in 2017 dollars[3])

$280 million[4] (2013 renovation)
Architect Bebb and Gould[5]
360 Architecture (2012 renovation)
General contractor Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company[2]
Washington Huskies (NCAA) (1920–2011, 2013–present)
Seattle Seahawks (NFL) (2000–2001)

Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium (colloquially known as simply Husky Stadium) is an outdoor football stadium on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, United States. It has been the home of the Washington Huskies of the Pac-12 Conference since 1920, hosting its football games. The university also holds its annual commencement at the stadium in June. It is located at the southeastern corner of campus, between Montlake Boulevard N.E. and Union Bay, just north of the Montlake Cut. The stadium is served by the University of Washington light rail station, as well as several bus routes.

The stadium most recently underwent a $280 million renovation that was completed in 2013.[4] Its U-shaped design was specifically oriented (18.167° south of due east) to minimize glare from the early afternoon sun in the athletes' eyes.[6] The open end overlooks scenic Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains, including Mount Rainier. Prior to the 2011–13 renovation, its total capacity of 72,500 made it the largest stadium in the Pacific Northwest and the 23rd largest in college football.


The original stadium was built in 1920[7] by Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company with a seating capacity of 30,000. The first game at the stadium was the final game of the 1920 season, a 28–7 loss to Dartmouth on November 27. Husky Stadium replaced Denny Field, which was located on the north end of upper campus, south of the intersection of NE 45th St. and 20th Ave. NE.

Husky Stadium has gone through four remodels (two major, two minor) to expand the seating capacity. Just three years after its construction, the stadium was the site of President Warren Harding's final address before his unexpected death. In 1936, 10,000 seats were added around the rim. In 1950, an upper deck of 15,000 covered seats was added to the south side – the new structure covered a portion of the lower seats.[8]

An aerial view of Husky Stadium as seen the day before the start of the 2011 renovation project.
"Go Huskies" and the "W" logo were painted on the
north and south decks in September 2008.[9]

In 1968, a few thousand more seats were added along the rim. In 1987, 13,000 covered seats were added with the upper deck on the north side.[10] Similar to the south side with a cantilevered steel roof, this structure also covered a portion of the lower seats. The 1987 construction project made headlines in February when the first version of the grandstand collapsed.[11][12]

Husky Stadium was a primary venue for the 1990 Goodwill Games, where the crowd saw an address by former President Ronald Reagan, as well as an address by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a performance by the Moody Blues & Gorky Park. The stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the track & field competition.

Following the ceiling tile incident at the Kingdome in July 1994, Husky Stadium was the temporary home of the Seattle Seahawks for five games (two pre-season and three regular season) in 1994. After the demolition of the Kingdome in March 2000, the Seahawks played at Husky Stadium for two seasons, 2000 and 2001, then moved into Seahawks Stadium (now CenturyLink Field) for the 2002 season.

The playing field at Husky Stadium was originally dirt, replaced with natural grass in 1938.[13] In 1968, Washington became one of the first major college teams to play on AstroTurf; at the time the Houston Astrodome and Neyland Stadium at Tennessee were the only major facilities to use the surface. The AstroTurf at Husky Stadium was replaced in 1972, 1977, 1987, and 1995.[6] The next generation of synthetic turf, FieldTurf, was installed in 2000, paid for by the Seattle Seahawks. The first of its kind in the NFL, the surface was so popular with the players that the Seahawks, who had planned to use natural grass at what is now CenturyLink Field, instead installed their own FieldTurf surface in the new stadium. The university replaced the field after nine seasons in 2009.[14]

Husky Stadium under construction in 1920 in front of Union Bay

In addition to the new playing surface, other improvements were made to the stadium by the Seahawks before it became an NFL venue for two seasons. A larger scoreboard, with a 23' x 42' "HuskyTron" video screen, debuted in 1998. Improved lighting for television, including corner lights, was added in 1999, and official NFL goalposts (optic yellow, 40' (12.2 m) in height) were installed in 2000.

During the 1980s and early 1990s the end zones were painted gold. Starting in 1995 the endzones became purple, then were changed to natural green in 2000 with the FieldTurf installation. This last lasted until 2009 when the endzones reverted to gold. Purple end zones saw a return in the 2010 season. The endzones were temporarily painted black to coincide with the Huskies' first "blackout" game on November 18, 2010 against UCLA.

On September 3, 2015, Alaska Airlines purchased naming rights to the field, naming it Alaska Airlines field at Husky Stadium for $41 million, the largest of its kind in college athletics.[15]

The Wave[edit]

See also: Wave (audience)
Pre-renovation Husky Stadium with the open end to the lake and the Seattle downtown and Space Needle visible on the horizon to the top right.

Many claim that the first audience wave originated in Husky Stadium on Halloween 1981,[16] at the prompting of Dave Hunter (Husky band trumpet player).[17] Contrary to Hunter's account, former Washington yell leader Robb Weller[18] has also claimed credit for the first wave.[19] Weller was the guest yell-king during the Huskies' homecoming football game against the Stanford Cardinal (led by junior quarterback John Elway). His initial concept for the wave was for it to travel vertically, from the bottom of the stands to the top, within the UW student section.[16][20] He claimed to have done this at games when he was yell king. When that was met with limited interest, he then came up with the idea to move the wave from top to bottom. This failed miserably, as it was necessary to turn backward to see the wave progressing downward. Weller then gave up and returned his attention to the game. However, a fan named Omar Parker sitting on the open (East) end of the stadium on the student side started yelling "sideways". Weller did not hear him, but then many students tried to initiate a "sideways" wave on their own. After a few attempts, and more yelling of "sideways" by students, Weller took notice. He instructed the crowd to stand as he ran past. _He moved along the track toward the open end of the stadium, explaining to the student crowd what he would do, then ran along the track toward the closed end of the stadium, in front of the student section. After a couple of tries, this caught on, and continued around the entire Husky Stadium, and was repeated throughout the rest of the game and the season. Longtime UW band director Bill Bissell also claimed co-creator credit with Weller, suggesting that the wave was devised by both of them prior to the game. The following week Bill Scott (known as "Bill the Beer Man") started the wave in Husky Stadium and then also started it at the Seattle Seahawks professional football game in the Kingdome and has been a staple of sports ever since.

Crowd noise[edit]

Capacity crowd in the south stands
at the 100th Apple Cup in 2007

Husky Stadium has long been recognized as one of the loudest stadiums in the nation.[21] This is in part due to the stadium's design; almost 70% of the seats are located between the end zones, covered by cantilevered metal roofs that trap the sound.[22]

At times, the high decibel levels typical of Husky games (especially from fans stomping their feet in the bleachers) causes television cameras to shake. During the 1992 night game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, ESPN measured the noise level at over 130 decibels, well above the threshold of pain. The level reached (133.6 decibels, according to ESPN) is the highest noise level ever recorded for a college football stadium.[23]


Husky Stadium is unusual in that fans can go to the football games by boat, known locally as "sailgating" (other stadiums with this feature include Neyland Stadium at Tennessee, Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, and McLane Stadium at Baylor). There can be upwards of 12,000 more people out on Lake Washington next to Husky Stadium, some of which stay on the lake the entire weekend camping out.[24] Right before kickoff, the UW crew team offers shuttles to anyone that wants to go to and from the boats and docks for the game.[25]

The north and south parking lots are packed with cars and tailgaters. There is currently controversy surrounding the south parking lot because the Pacific Interchange Option for expansion to the SR 520 Floating Bridge would effectively eliminate the south parking lot for tailgating.

Fans also gather at the Dempsey Indoor Facility just north of the stadium for Husky Huddles. After the game, the Tyee Sports Council and the University of Washington Athletic Department put on the 5th Quarter where fans can gather and hear analysis of the game from UW Coaches and Husky Legends, and listen to the Husky Marching Band. They can also enjoy refreshments and a raffle for prizes.

2011–2013 renovation[edit]

Husky Stadium seen in April 2012 as it undergoes renovation.

The stadium had developed numerous structural problems, particularly in the lower bowl, due primarily to having to withstand nine decades of Seattle's moist weather. In November 2011, Husky Stadium began a $261 million renovation, with the goal of being completed in time for the 2013 season.[26] The demolition of the roof began on December 20, 2011.[27] The team played at CenturyLink Field during the 2012 season.[26] The stadium is the largest single capital project in the history of the University of Washington.[28]

The new Husky Stadium was developed by Wright Runstad & Company, designed by 360 Architecture, and constructed by Turner Construction company. The steel decking was supplied by Profile Steel. The new stadium is the first and primary income source of a completely remodeled athletic district which includes a new $19 million Husky Ballpark, a new track and field stadium, renovated soccer stadium, $50 million basketball operations and practice facility and recently completed projects such as the Husky Legends Center, the Conibear Shellhouse and Alaska Airlines Arena renovations, and the construction of the Dempsey Indoor facility. This major remodel of the athletic village coincided with construction for an underground station for a northern extension of the Link Light Rail system and a replacement of the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge (the latter of which opened in 2016).

The stadium project consists of a new grand concourse, individual student entry and seating section, enclosed west end of the stadium, replacement of bleachers with individual seating, removal of the track, new press box, private loge and suite seating, lowering of the field by 4 ft, video and audio system, football offices, permanent seating in the east end zone, and new and improved amenities, concession stands and bathrooms throughout. Previous plans have called for open concourses allowing spectators to still view the action on the field while browsing the concession stands. The seating capacity was reduced from 72,500 to 70,138.[29] Despite the reduction in capacity, it is expected to be as loud as its predecessor; the metal roofs were retained.[30] Along with the Husky Stadium remodel, new parking garages were constructed and facilities throughout the athletic village were renovated.[31]

Seattle Seahawks[edit]

The first residency of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks at Husky Stadium was due to repairs to the interior ceiling of the Kingdome in the summer of 1994. The second residency (200001) was because of the demolition of the Kingdome in March 2000. The Seahawks' new stadium, Seahawks Stadium (now CenturyLink Field) would take over two years to complete, and was built in the Kingdome's footprint.

NFL exhibition games[edit]

Between 1955 and 1975, Husky Stadium hosted 12 NFL preseason games. The San Francisco 49ers played six times at the stadium, the most of any team. Other teams to make multiple appearances include the New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns, and Chicago/St. Louis Cardinals.[32]

At one point after the 1970 NFL season, Ralph Wilson came very close to moving the Buffalo Bills from dilapidated War Memorial Stadium to Husky Stadium.[33] The threat of relocation prompted the developers in the Buffalo suburbs to construct Rich Stadium (later Ralph Wilson Stadium and now New Era Field), where the Bills have resided ever since.


  1. ^ "Sean Constantine out for 2016 season with broken ankle, plus a season-ticket update". Tacoma News Tribune. Retrieved September 12, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Build Large Earth-Fill Stadium by Sheerboard Method". Engineering News-Record. New York City: McGraw-Hill. 86 (8): 326–327. February 24, 1921. Retrieved September 19, 2013. 
  3. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b Jude, Adam (August 24, 2013). "New, Improved Husky Stadium Ready to Shine". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Husky Stadium Historic and Cultural Resources Report" (PDF). The Johnson Partnership. November 1, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b University of Washington – Official Athletic Site: Facilities
  7. ^ Condotta, Bob (August 10, 2011). "Will tickets to new Husky Stadium cost a lot more?". The Seattle Times. 
  8. ^ "Seattle History: The first time Husky Stadium came down". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. December 22, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2012. 
  9. ^ Washington-BYU Postgame Notes
  10. ^ "UW Regents Approve Plans for Husky Stadium Addition". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. April 20, 1985. p. 2C. 
  11. ^ HistoryLink Essay: Husky Stadium collapses on February 25, 1987
  12. ^ "Section of Husky Stadium Collapses". The Spokesman-Review. Spokane. February 26, 1987. p. A-1. 
  13. ^ "Husky Stadium Aging Not So Gracefully". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. [dead link]
  14. ^ "FieldTurf to be replaced". April 17, 2009. Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  15. ^ "UW, Alaska Airlines agree to naming-rights deal for Husky Stadium's field". The Seattle Times. September 3, 2015. Retrieved October 17, 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "It's settled: Where The Wave first started". 2013-03-01. Retrieved 2016-09-21. 
  17. ^ Daven Hiskey (2014-07-15). "Who Invented the Sporting Wave?". Retrieved 2016-09-21. 
  18. ^ "Best and Brightest 2008 | University of Washington Recognition Award Recipients". Retrieved 2016-09-21. 
  19. ^ "Who started the wave?". San Diego Reader. 2002-08-29. Retrieved 2016-09-21. 
  20. ^ " Page 2 : Please, don't blame me for this". 1981-10-15. Retrieved 2016-09-21. 
  21. ^ Miller, Ted (August 11, 2011). "Getting to know the new Husky Stadium". ESPN. 
  22. ^ Husky Stadium listing at official Huskies athletic site
  23. ^ "Loudest College Football Stadium?". YouTube. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  24. ^ Tim Booth AP Sports Writer
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b Condotta, Bob (August 24, 2012). "New Husky Stadium: on time, on budget". The Seattle Times. 
  27. ^ Condotta, Bob (November 20, 2011). "Half of Husky Stadium's South Roof Comes Down". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  28. ^ Thiel, Art (August 10, 2011). "Thiel: UW Stadium Funding Near Goal Line". Sports Press Northwest. 
  29. ^ "Husky Stadium to debut after $280M renovation". USA Today. Associated Press. August 29, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  30. ^ Gall, Braden Ranking the Pac-12's College Football Stadiums. Athlon Sports, 2013-06-13.
  31. ^ Condotta, Bob (December 1, 2006). "UW Athletic Director Unveils New Husky Stadium Drawings". The Seattle Times. 
  32. ^ McKillop, Andrew. "NFL Exhibition Games Played at Neutral Sites » Includes Non-League Away Games and/or Games Played at Non-League Stadiums". Retrieved August 31, 2013. 
  33. ^ "Memphis, Tampa express interest in Buffalo Bills". Spartanburg (SC) Herald. Associated Press. January 15, 1971. p. 14. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Kingdome
The Kingdome
Home of the Seattle Seahawks
First half of 1994
2000 – 2001
Succeeded by
The Kingdome
CenturyLink Field