AKA: University of Washington, Seattle (UW), Husky Stadium, Seattle, WA; University of Washington (UW) Stadium, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - recreation areas and structures - stadiums

Designers: Bebb and Gould, Architects (firm); HOK Sport, Incorporated (firm); Lydig Construction Company (firm); Skilling, Ward, Rogers, Barkshire, Incorporated, Engineers (firm); Stoddard, George Wellington, and Associates, Architects (firm); Wright Runstad and Company (firm); Charles Herbert Bebb ; Carl Freylinghausen Gould Sr. (architect); George Francis Hellmuth (architect); Rollie E. Hunt (building contractor); George Edward Kassabaum (architect); Paul Lydig (building contractor); Charles C. May ; Gyo Frederick Obata (architect); Harold Jon Runstad (developer); George Wellington Stoddard (architect); Arvid Strand (building contractor); Howard S. Wright (building contractor/developer)

Dates: constructed 1920-1920

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3800 Montlake Boulevard NE
University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195

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Set on a large parcel on the banks of Lake Washington, the Washington Stadium (later known as the Husky Stadium) has long been thought to have one of the most beautiful settings of any major stadium in the US. It opened on 11/27/1920, when the Washington Stadium replaced the Denny Field as the home of the University of Washington football team. (Denny Field was a jerry-rigged enclosure with bleachers wedged behind Denny Hall.) Over the years the stadium has had many small and large alterations, the largest occurring in 1936, 1938, 1950, 1968, 1987, 1989, 1998 and 2013. Wooden bleachers originally seated 28,000, but grew to a maximum capacity of 72,500 in 1987. Seating was reduced slightly during the most recent 2013 remodel to accommodate 70,138 (and then reduced again by 55 in 2014). It has been transformed from a dirt/grass field (1920-1938) to natural grass (1938-1967) to AstroTurf (1968-1999), and the current FieldTurf (2010-present). The last product, FieldTurf, a product of the French company Tarkett, Incorporated, has captured most of the stadium market in the US. FieldTurf is composed of polyethylene-blend strands bonded to a polypropylene substrata. Interspersed between the polyethylene "grass" and the backing is a layer of sand mixed with cryogenic rubber.

Building History

The main University of Washington campus architect in 1920, Bebb and Gould, responsible from many buildings in the Liberal Arts and Science Quads, produced the design for the first large-scale stadium at the UW, originally known as the "University of Washington Stadium." In the spring of 1920, Carl F. Gould, Sr., (1873-1939) traveled with UW Superintendant of Grounds Charles C. May to the East Coast to review current stadium design trends; here they toured the Yale Bowl and Princeton Stadium, among others.

In their designs for the Libraral Arts Quad, Bebb and Gould had already adopted the Gothic/Tudor Revival Styles as dominant ornamental vocabulary for the campus in the 1910s. The exterior of Washington Stadium, was intended to reflect this choice. In a 03/19/1920 sketch of the hypothetical, completely-expanded, 60,000-seat stadium, the architects outlined their concept for the exterior. The front facade, oriented to Montlake Boulevard, would be anchored by a pair of tall, majestic Gothic towers. A colonnade, looking as though it was drawn from Italian Renaissance models, most notably Brunelleschi's Ospedale degli Innocenti (1419), stretched around the full extent of the horseshoe. Separate banks of stairs led up to the colonnade. Pairs of lower Gothic towers punctuated each end of the grandstands on both the north and south sides. The design of Palmer Stadium (1914) at Princeton University exerted particular weight on the Bebb and Gould concept. Palmer Stadium was also a concrete horseshoe positioned facing a lake, with paired front towers and an arched colonnade wrapping around the structure. Due to a lack of funds, the Seattle version of Palmer Stadium was never realized. All funds were put into the earthmoving, structure and field, built at breakneck speed, and nothing remained for the Gothic icing envisioned by Bebb and Gould. A small group of sheds, most topped by hipped roofs, were built as ticket booths, but nothing else at the beginning.

Urged on by the University of Washington Athletic Manager Darwin Meisnest (1896-1952), the undergraduate group, Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW), agitated in 1919-1920 for the stadium's construction and assisted in the fund-raising of the modest $600,000 needed to erect the new facility. (A Seattle Times story of 04/18/1920 indicated how inexpensive the UW stadium was compared to contemporary projects; 55,000-seat Soldier Field in Chicago cost $900,000 and the 50-seat Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, $800,000. See "Campus to Have Great Structure," Seattle Times, 04/18/1920, p. 16.) Seven thousand five hundred seat licenses (then called "plaques") were sold for 2 years (costing $50) and five years ($100), but the majority of funds came from 200 student volunteers systematically canvassing the city, businessmen in town fund-raising intensively and alumni during 1920.

The 418,950-square-foot site occupied uneven terrain with a maximum elevation of 42 feet located on the campus's eastern periphery bordering Lake Washington; during the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909, the Amateur Athletic Union Track had occupied the space. Its location on the lake's edge proved advantageous for the transport of large building components, as they could be sailed to the construction site and unloaded at a dock nearby. Bebb and Gould designed the stadium in a horseshoe shape, open on its east end toward Lake Washington. The Engineering News-Record reported in 1921: "The University of Washington stadium is horseshoe shape with a slight bend toward each other of the long sides in order to give that impression of crowd unity which is peculiar to completely curved structures such as the Yale Bowl. It is open at one end in order to provide space for long distance straightaway running and also to take advantage of the view of Lake Washington on the bank of which the stadium is located." (See "Build Large Earth-Fill Stadium by Sheerboard Method," Engineering News-Record, vol. 86, no. 8, 02/24/1921, p. 326) Bebb and Gould and their consultants originally hoped to create the playing field and earthen mounds supporting the concentric rows of benches in a "balanced cut and fill" process, "...the intention being to excavate by hydraulic giants the earth in the playing field area and to sluice it into place to form the mound for the seat banks, extending this mound...far enough back so as to carry the prospective reinforced-concrete seats." From the beginning, Bebb and Gould originally envisioned this first 28,000-seat portion to be the first stage in a larger stadium holding 60,000. They anticipated that additional reinforced-concrete grandstands would be built on earthen podiums on the north and south sides of the playing field. The cut and fill process moved 159,319 yards of soil, but could not provide all of the earth needed to create the banks of the horseshoe, and 67,994 yards of added soil were excavated by steam shovel nearby and brought to the site.

A new hydraulic method of building up the earthen mounds, called "sheerboarding," was used to construct a stadium for the first time here. (Previously, sheerboarding had been developed to rapidly and inexpensively move large masses of earth.) The Engineering News-Record described the sheerboard process: "The sheerboard method of fill...consists in building up the hydraulically deposited fill stage by stage behind parallel shallow walls of boards, the function of which is to lead the liquid fill in fixed lines at such a rate as to cause it to deposit the carried sand and clay, and also to permit the gradual dispersion of the transporting water to a point where it is led away." Bebb and Gould and Bittman also worked with the Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company (PSBDC), a firm that specialized in large-scale steel and concrete infrastructure and building projects. The PSBDC had recently absorbed another contracting firm, Lewis, Wiley and Morse, that had pioneered the method of sheerboarding used here. Previously, Lewis, Wiley and Morse had experimented with this new method of moving and anchoring earthen mounds in a Portland, OR, regrade and the Ochoco Dam in central OR. Both Lewis and W.C. Morse worked on the construction of the University of Washington Stadium, with the latter serving as the construction engineer in general charge of the work. A former UW football player and 1910 engineering graduate, Charles C. May, supervised the field's construction.

Bebb and Gould collaborated with the associate engineer Henry W. Bittman on the technical details of stadium's structure and drainage. According to William H. Witt, Jr., his father, the civil engineer William H. Witt, Sr., (1885-1928), worked on the first stadium as a civil engineer while in the employ of Bittman. (See William H. Witt, Jr., "Christian Witt," "Marshfield History Book 1 - W," p. 501, accessed 12/01/2015.) Witt would later start his own firm that would develop into Worthington, Skilling, Helle and Jackson, Structural Engineers, one of the most nationally influential engineering firms of the 1950s-1980s.

Seattle Mayor Hugh M. Caldwell, UW President Henry Suzzallo, President of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Samuel Hedges, Regent Winlock Miller, Faculty members Leslie Ayer, David Thomsen and Edmond S. Meany participated in a cermonial groundbreaking ceremony on 04/16/1920, as did student body and football team representatives, but construction work didn't begin in earnest until 05/1920. The stadium's complettion occurred about seven months later in time for a much-anticipated football game against Dartmouth College, then a college football powerhouse. Originally, the playing field measured from 268 to 293 feet wide and 487 feet long. Graded rows of seats were arranged on an 1 on 2 1/2 slope and stood 75 feet away from the field. Over 100,000 lineal feet of wood composed the benches and seat backs, bolted firmly to stepped concrete supports. (See "Washington Stadium Termed Perfect Field," Seattle Times, 11/25/1920, p. 5.)Construction occurred up to early 11/1920, in preparation for the 11/27/1920 opening game with Dartmouth, the first East-West college football game played in Seattle. TheSeattle Timesreported on 11/04/1920 that "Concrete will be poured into the last section of the Washington Stadium today and work will be concentrated on completing the field and putting the seats." (See "Will Limit Seat Sales," Seattle Times, 11/04/1920, p. 15.) Work on the playing field continued until the day of the game. Twenty-six articles filled the pages of the Seattle Times in the month before this first game, indicating the extraordinary interest in the matchup with an Eastern football power and the huge facility built so quickly and frugally. In the end, the home team lost 28-7, but the University of Washington Stadium's construction raised the city's spirits in the wake of World War I, and reflected the growing sense of pride and boosterism of its inhabitants.

A large stadium had been seen as an amenity that the growing city lacked. When former President Theodore Roosevelt came to speak in Seattle on 04/06/1911, officials scurried to find a venue large enough to seat the hordes eager to see him. No venue could accommodate more than 20,000 people. (The largest crowd to pack Washington Stadium's predecessor, Denny Field, was 18,000, during a 1919 football game with the University of Calfiornia.) Roosevelt ended up speaking in the poorly maintained ampitheatre erected for the AYPE, causing some local embarrassment. After this, boosters added a stadium to the list of necessary big-city facilities needed by an increasingly important Seattle. (Another was a large, luxury hotel, an absence solved by the construction of the Olympic Hotel on university property downtown in 1923-1924.) An editorial in the Seattle Times on 11/26/1920, summed this up this optimism: "The Stadium is a tribute to the spirit of the West--the spirit that seizes upon new methods, new ideas, and uses them to achieve specatacular, but solid and enduring purposes." (See "Records Broken in Construction of Big Stadium," Seattle Times, 11/26/1920, p.1.)

The University of Washington Stadium gradually came to be known as "Husky Stadium." Prior to 1922, the UW did not have an official mascot. Unofficially, sports teams were called the "Indians," "Vikings" and most creatively, "Sundodgers." As the last name was seen to throw a poor light on the region, The ASUW decided to settle on a mascot in 1921, and by 02/1922, the Husky name was first adopted at a varsity basketball game. The Seattle Times's first usage of "Husky Stadium" came in 05/1924, and gradually thereafter the name came to be used more commonly.

Building Notes

At a 04/15/1966 meeting of the UW Board of Regents, the Regents approved that $3.7 million be spent on an addition/renovation project for Husky Stadium. As a result, 3,000 more seats were added in 1968. Husky Stadium, had become a recruiting liability for the football team by 2007, when potential players compared it with other facilities in the PAC-10 Conference, particularly those at USC, Oregon and Stanford. Maintenance on the stadium cost between $200,000 and $600,000 per year in the early 2000s. In 2008, the UW Football Team went winless, in part because it could not compete for top talent.

Archival documents on the University of Washington Stadium have been preserved in the University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections Division, under the title: "Stadium, Associated Students University of Washington, Chas. H. Bebb & Carl F. Gould, Architects."

An building inventory put together by Paul Ivester in 1977 said this about the stadium: "Built in 1920. Funded by the A.S.U.W. The original construction was of reinfoced concrete laid directly on the ground, which was formed into shape by sluicing. Bee & gould were the architects. The south grandstand was erected around 1955. It was given building number 101 (now University Hospital), but was changed back to Bldg. 077. Grandstand archtects were George Wellington Stoddard & Associates." (See Paul Ivester, University of Washington, Physical Plant Department,Index of Old Building Record Plans with Historical Summaries, [Seattle: University of Washington, Physical Plant Department, 1977], n.p.)


Like most large university stadiums, Husky Stadium, home of the UW football and track teams, has been enlarged, remodeled and altered several times. In 1936-1938, approximately 13,000 seats were added, bringing the total capacity to 43,000. On 01/19/1937, the State of WA approved a $32,549 WPA project to build 20 new wooden sections of bleachers and a three-story frame headhouse. The Federal Government supplied $19,541, providing 257 man months of work. (See "Approve Addition to U.W. Stadium," Spokane Spokesman-Review, 01/19/1937.)

In 1949-1950, Seattle architect George Wellington Stoddard (1895-1967) supervised the construction of the stadium's new, covered, south-side stands, containing 15,000 more seats and a press box, at a cost of $1.7 million. The stadium was enlarged again in 1987 with the completion of the north-side covered seating; during construction, a 215-foot section of the north-side stands collapsed on 02/25/1987. (This collapse was captured on film by UW Photography Lecturer John Stamets.) Larry Swartz of Lydig Construction Company of Spokane, WA, noted that the builders had 1-2 hours warning before the grandstand's collapse resulting in no injuries. Paul Lydig stated that the accident caused between $500,000-$1,000,000 damage, a significant proportion of the $12.9 million budget. John Skilling of the firm Skilling, Ward, Rogers and Barkshire, Incorporated, was the primary structural engineer. Steel used came from Portland, OR, Japan and Korea and the Canron Construction Company of Toronto, ON, Canada, was the steel contractor.

Despite the accident, the new stands, seating 13,700, were repaired and ready for the football season opener, on 09/05/1987. This addition cost $13 million. In 1989-1990 the west stands were replaced and the west exterior was redone for $3.7 million in preparation for the Goodwill Games of 07-08/1990. A new track also was donated for the games at a cost of $1.7 million.

In 2007, Husky Stadium seated 72,000. In 09/2007, a large-scale renovation plan was announced by university officials, undertaken by HOK Sport. Estimates for renovation or rebuilding of Husky Stadium ranged from $150-$450 million in 09/2007. In 2009, the Washington State Legislature did not act on Senate Bill 6116 which would have allowed King County to use money gained from a hotel and restaurant tax for a $300 renovation of Husky Stadium. The economic crash of 2008-2009 was blamed for the bill's death. Large-scale alterations of the stadium's south parking lot were begun by Sound Transit in 2009 as it built a university stop for a new light rail line to link it with Downtown Seattle. In the summer of 2010, the University of Washington reviewed three bids to renovate Husky Stadium. The winning group was led by Seattle's Wright-Runstad Development Company; Wright-Runstad proposed a $250 million renovation plan, $29 million cheaper than the next lowest-cost alternative. The Seattle-based Wright-Runstad collaborated with 360 Architecture, Turner Construction Company and Seattle-headquartered Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) for structural and civil engineering work. Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz's AEG Development, the firm that owned Los Angeles's Staples Center, along with Icon Venue Group, Mortenson Construction, Populous (architects); and CSL International (a sports revenue firm), submitted a $279 million proposal. Keating Project Development, Incorporated, headed a third team including Sellen Construction, HKS Sports and Entertainment with SRG Partnership, Incorporated, (architects), Shiels Obletz Johnsen (associated development management), Hillis Clark Martin and Peterson (permitting consultant) and IMG College (marketing consultant) presented a plan costing $400 million. According to the Seattle Times on 08/06/2010, the Wright-Runstad proposal contained the following: "...Complete demolition and reconstruction of the lower bowl and south upper stands. The track will be removed, and the field lowered four feet to bring seating closer to the playing surface and improve sightlines. ...[A] state-of-the-art football-operations facility— including team meeting rooms, recruiting facilities and coaches offices—will be incorporated into the west end of the stadium. Premium seating opportunities, including 25 suites, 25 loge boxes and more than 2,500 club seats, will be built into the facility. Overall seating capacity is expected to remain similar to the current capacity of 72,500." (SeeSeattle Times, 08/06/2010, accessed 08/13/2010.) Despite the Washington Legislature's failure to fund the stadium the year before, Husky boosters refused to drop renovation plans. Final university approval of the Wright-Runstad plan was set for early Fall 2010. On 11/18/2010, the University of Washington Board of Regents passed a $250 million budget for the renovation; to pay the cost, the UW Athletic Department would obtain a $210 million loan from the UW's Internal Lending Program (ILP) and seek $50 million in private funds over five years to finance the project, of which $14.5 million had been raised as of 01/05/2011. Demolition of the South Grandstand with its delightful helical pedestrian ramps occurred in mid-12/2011; a crane used to cut steel grandstand support members was damaged at this time.

Construction at the football stadium at this time occurred contemporaneously with construction of a Metro Light Railstop nearby. The UW stop was set to open in 03/2016, and served as the terminus of a $1.9 billion twin-bore tunnel originating on Broadway in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

PCAD id: 8749

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