UW to seek public funds to help pay for $300 million Husky Stadium project
The University of Washington plans to ask the Legislature for public money to help pay for a $300 million renovation and upgrade of Husky...
Seattle Times staff reporters
OLYMPIA — The University of Washington plans to ask the Legislature for public money to help pay for a $300 million renovation and upgrade of Husky Stadium.
The university's Board of Regents was briefed today on the proposal to seek $150 million from the state, which would go toward the renovations. The university would raise the other $150 million for upgrades from donors and revenue from premium seating.
The university is hoping to pull off what the Seattle Sonics couldn't — convince wary lawmakers to subsidize a sports stadium with tax dollars. But former Gov. Dan Evans, who heads the UW committee on the stadium, told regents today that he and Scott Woodward, interim athletic director and vice president for external affairs, received a good first reception in Olympia yesterday.
"I think we're in the ballgame," he said.
He noted that the UW proposal "is a whole lot better than what any of the professional teams have suggested." The university is asking for a 50-50 split; the Sonics wanted 60 percent of the project paid by the public, and public money made up about 75 percent of Qwest Field costs.
Evans said he thinks this is the first time the university has asked for public dollars to pay for any athletic facilities, except for some seismic work on Hec-Ed Pavilion.
Evans and Woodward said the university is asking for some of the revenues now being used to pay off debts from Safeco and Qwest fields, once those bonds are paid. Those include taxes on hotels, car rentals and restaurants. They said they'd leave it up to legislators to determine which taxes would be most appropriate.
The $150 million from the state would be used for what the university called "preservation, renovation and maintenance" — essentially rebuilding the lower bowl portion of the stadium, addressing safety concerns, and bringing the stadium up to modern standards for handicap accessibility. The lower bowl was constructed in 1920.
The $150 million in improvements, to be paid with private dollars, would go toward new premium seating and a club room, lowering the field by eight feet to improve the view from the lower seats, and building new facilities for players and coaches. The track that's now around the field would be placed elsewhere, perhaps around the soccer field.
It would be the most expensive project in the history of the school's athletic department.
Marty Brown, chief lobbyist for Gov. Christine Gregoire, said he was briefed recently by university officials about the problems at the stadium and funding needs.
He said the governor has not seen a proposal so it's too soon to say whether she would support it.
Ralph Thomas: 360-943-9882 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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