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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

May 17, 2010 at 6:18 PM

May answers, volume four — Husky Stadium capacity and what players do in the off-season

Husky Stadium capacity and the off-season are topics in this entry. …
Q: What did you think of the comment by UW athletic director Scott Woodward that the capacity is more likely to decrease than increase in the renovation of Husky Stadium?
A: First off, I caution that nothing about the renovation is set in stone other than, as Woodward said Friday, that it will begin either after the 2010 or 2011 seasons.
That said, I don’t think it was an accident that Woodward stated on Friday that if anything, capacity is more likely to decrease than increase in a renovation (maybe into the mid-to-high 60,000s)— I think he may have been trying to prepare fans for that potential eventuality.
It was a statement that has caused a fair amount of controversy, many UW fans seeming to insist that Woodward should be thinking of expanding and not contracting. I think for some fans it’s an emotional issue, almost a comment on the intensity of fan loyalty or something (though I would hope fans would realize that there are so many different factors that determine attendance that strictly using numbers to compare anything is obviously faulty).
Any AD, however, has to take emotion out of the issue and look at it pragmatically.
In his statement on his reasons for possibly preferring a smaller stadium, he noted that UW has not been selling out regularly for quite some time now and that there are other benefits to having a full stadium (atmosphere, creating a hot ticket being two).
The numbers are hard to argue. Since 2004, UW has played 39 games at Husky Stadium. I find only five that were essentially sellouts (and I say it that way because of the fact that due to some of the restricted view seats and all, there are almost always seats of some sort available for UW games).

Lots of high-profile games against big-name opponents in that time have not sold out, such as Notre Dame, Oklahoma and LSU.
And UW hasn’t come close to selling out for a season since its streak of non-losing seasons ended in 2003. Here are the season averages for the last six years for a stadium that lists an official capacity of 72,500.
2004 — 64,737.
2005 — 64,326.
2006 — 57,483.
2007 — 67,732.
2008 — 63,640.
2009 — 64,356.
I know what people will cite as reasons — namely, the team hasn’t been very good and prices have gone up.
The team, obviously, appears to be getting better, so that should help. Still, who knows what’s going to happen, and as much as the UW fan base deserves the plaudits it receives for its passion, I would imagine Woodward has noticed that the sellouts stopped even before the losing really began (no game in 2004, the first of the losing seasons, drew more than 65,816).
And the only guarantee in this deal right now is that prices will continue to go up — maybe substantially. With no money from the state coming at the moment — and maybe never — the Huskies will have to monetize the stadium as much as they can.
The Huskies also have an older audience with no guarantee that the younger generation — which has grown up used to having more choices to spend its sports entertainment dollar and being more selective in the process — will fill in the gaps to the same extent.
If there’s one game that may have raised an eyebrow it was the 61,889 that showed up for the win over USC. Granted, UW was just one week removed from ending a 15-game losing streak. Still, UW had also played well in the first two weeks and was hosting a USC team considered at the time a legit national title contender —- let alone simply being USC and all that that name means.
The point of this isn’t in any way to try to demean a fan base that unquestionably is one of the most passionate in the nation, the one West Coast school often considered to rival the SEC in that regard.
That UW has continued to finish in the top four in attendance every season during a sustained stretch of football as bad as the school has ever had speaks volumes about Washington’s fan base.
But does that mean you automatically assume 80,000 will begin showing up once you even hint winning seasons again? That’s what Woodward and the others up there have to consider.
Ultimately, I think they think they’d rather have a consistently full stadium of, say, 68,000 seats, then an 80,000-seater that looks a quarter-to-a-third empty on many occasions. As noted earlier, among the advantages of that are creating a better atmosphere with a more intimate venue, and increasing the value of the tickets that are available. The Mariners did kind of the same thing when they moved from the Kingdome to Safeco Field at a time when they were often drawing crowds of 50,000-plus. It’s also, I’m sure, more expensive to build and maintain a larger stadium.
Or who knows — maybe this was Woodward’s way of challenging fans? With a Heisman Trophy candidate on hand, a team that appears ready to win again, and another pretty good schedule (Nebraska will be a top 10 non-conference foe and while the conference schedule isn’t as glittering, UCLA on a Thursday night, Stanford and UCLA are all enticing games) there’s really not much to stop UW fans from coming out in full force this season and making their own statement on this issue.
Q: I understand that every player may be different, but what are the players doing on a daily/weekly basis from now until fall (hour of school, working out, drills with other players, film study, etc.)?
A: There’s little organized activity right now as the players finish up school for the year. Mostly, they do some conditioning and weights. They can’t do any organized film watching or anything right now, but lots of players will do that on their own.
Once school ends, players take a little time off, then most/all will return for summer school. There is some organized conditioning and weight work then, as well as voluntary seven-on-seven stuff twice a week.
I asked UW coach Steve Sarkisian last week what the players do now, and here’s how he put it: “We’re finishing up this quarter of school and then back into their workout stuff, take a little time away from football when this quarter ends and head into the summer. They’ll start their own training sessions (seven-on-seven and the like) in the stadium probably about twice a week and start preparing for fall camp, and what will be a really competitive fall camp, one that I think with the addition of some of our younger players is going to be much more competitive than last year.”



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