Apple Cup will not move to Qwest Field
Schools can't agree on ticket allotment.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A controversial plan to play the Apple Cup at Qwest Field died Friday as officials at both schools said plans on how to best allocate tickets proved to be a deal-breaker.
Washington and Washington State had been talking with First & Goal, which operates Qwest Field, about moving the Apple Cup to Qwest for a six-year period beginning in 2010.
Initial plans were to divide tickets evenly each year, giving 31,000 to each school. Qwest Field seats 67,000.
But the Huskies wanted more tickets to be able to account for as many of their season-ticket holders as possible. UW had 43,000 season-ticket holders last season and anticipates having that many again this year.
Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk said in a statement released by the school that "it became evident an understanding on ways to maintain that neutral-site atmosphere in regards to ticket allotment could not be reached; therefore, our student-athletes and Cougars fans would not be best served without this key component. I was not going to continue following a path that was not in the best interest of WSU athletics, the university and our fans."
Sterk later reiterated those comments in a conference call with reporters saying, "I think that some issues about tickets and how to distribute them were right at the forefront."
He said any proposal that would give UW more tickets than WSU would disrupt the "neutral-site atmosphere" and that "basically I wasn't going to continue to follow down [this] path if that wasn't the case."
Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said "there were other issues out there as well" but acknowledged that the ticket situation was among them.
Said Washington spokesman Richard Kilwien: "Our goal was to be able to accommodate our season-ticket holders, and at the end of the day there was no model that would allow us to do that, not one that was workable for everybody involved. We wanted to be able to accommodate our fans, and it was clear that was not going to happen."
Woodward said he would be open to proposals to play games at Qwest Field, whether against the Cougars or anyone else, but officials at both schools said this particular deal is dead for the foreseeable future.
"We are always open for great ideas for Husky athletics and Husky football, and First & Goal obviously proposed a very interesting concept," Woodward said. "We will always be open to listening to those concepts and those ideas as long as it benefits the University of Washington."
The plan drew wide criticism from fans of both schools when word of the possibility leaked last week. Despite some reports to the contrary, however, officials at both schools insisted that there was never an agreement in place.
Both athletic directors admitted that there was heavy dissent among a large segment of their fan bases but said that wasn't necessarily what killed the deal.
"I knew there would be harsh resistance from a vocal part of our fan base that wanted tradition, and that's an important thing you weigh, financial considerations versus tradition," Woodward said. "It's something I expected."
Washington season-ticket holders, in particular, had complained about potentially not having access to tickets to the Qwest Field game. Washington's request for a greater share of tickets apparently came in the past few days.
The proposal was hatched as a way to raise additional revenue. The teams split the revenues for the game, estimated as $280,000 when the game is played in Pullman and $800,000 when it is played at Husky Stadium.
There were estimates that the Qwest Field game might give each school about $10 million over the six years. That money was expected to come from having more seats to sell over the six years (Pullman's Martin Stadium seats 35,000) and increasing the prices gradually through the life of the deal, as well as selling suites at Qwest.
Sterk said WSU will seek alternate ways to raise funds. He said WSU is going to announce its university budget on May 1 that will include budget cuts for athletics. Sterk said the WSU athletic department has received 8 percent of its $30 million in funds from the general university budget, some coming in tuition waivers. Sterk said WSU fans who were against the move of the Apple Cup "now have an opportunity to express their support" for Friday's decision by donating.
Washington State has played a game at Qwest each season since 2002, and it was that working relationship with First & Goal that provided the initial impetus for the talks to move the Apple Cup to Qwest.
Sterk said WSU will renew discussions with First & Goal about playing future games at Qwest Field. WSU will host Hawaii at Qwest next season. He said there are no specific proposals for bringing any Pac-10 opponents to Qwest Field.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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