The University of Washington is officially announcing today a couple things that had been speculated for a while — that it will play the 2011 Apple Cup and the entire 2012 season at Qwest Field (pictured right).
The moves are a result of the planned renovation of Husky Stadium, which will begin late in 2011 and is scheduled for completion in time for the beginning of the 2013 season. The 2011 Apple Cup is set for Nov. 19. The last UW home game prior to that is Oct. 29 against Oregon — a fitting way to send out the old Husky Stadium — so moving the Apple Cup allows UW to get a three-week head start on construction.
UW officials say they can save roughly $3 million in labor and other costs by starting earlier as well as further assuring that construction is completed by the start of the 2013 season (and there actually is no set date or opponent yet for the first game of that season).
“That’s serious money and it does really help on our time line,” said UW athletic director Scott Woodward.
The 2011 Apple Cup will actually be hosted by First & Goal, which regularly runs the building, and First & Goal will price the tickets, meaning the game will not be included in regular UW season ticket packages. However, UW season ticket holders in 2011 will get first priority on tickets for the Apple Cup. (Prices are not yet set).
It’s also important to note that this has noting to do with talks a few years ago about moving the Apple Cup to Qwest on a regular basis and WSU is not getting a split of tickets or anything. Instead, WSU will simply get its usual allotment (in terms of a percentage) as it does when the Apple Cup is at Husky Stadium.
“This has nothing to do with that,” Woodward said. “This is all about getting out early and saving money and beginning construction early.”
For the 2012 season at Qwest, however, UW will handle all of the ticket pricing and other issues, and a season ticket will be good for all home games there that season.
A couple things could change plans: 1, The 2012 Pac-10 schedule will undergo some changes to account for the addition of Colorado and Utah. If that somehow changes the date of UW’s home games in November, the Huskies still plan to move to Qwest a few weeks early; 2, If UW doesn’t raise the money needed to start construction, the entire project could be put on hold. UW needs to raise $25 million by next March to get the go-ahead to proceed and says it has about $13 million right now; and 3, the final plans for the renovation still need to be approved by the UW Board of Regents.
Woodward, however, feels good enough about where things are headed to make today’s announcement.
“I feel very confident that we are going to move forward and begin construction on this project after the 2011 season, and I’m excited about it,” he said. “But we still have two really important things to do, and that’s to get our plan approved by the Board of Regents and to raise our philantrophic goal and have that goal achieved.”
As for any conference scheduling issues, Woodward said he has already spoken with Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott and that “they are going to work closely with us” to assure that construction can begin as early as possible.
“We are very lucky to have an alternative like this,” Woodward said of playing at Qwest Field.
Here is the release from GoHuskies.com:
The University of Washington announced plans to play the 2012 home football season at Qwest Field during the renovation of Husky Stadium. The move is a result of an agreement between the university and First and Goal, the developer and operator of Qwest Field & Event Center. The Huskies will return home to campus for the 2013 season.
“We are thrilled to provide a first-class venue to our fans during the Husky Stadium renovation,” Scott Woodward, UW director of athletics, said. “First and Goal has been a terrific partner and we appreciate their flexibility and assistance. It is a luxury to have a world-class facility as our home-away-from-home only four miles from campus.”
The move will provide Husky fans with amenities similar to what they will return to in the renovated Husky Stadium for the 2013 season. Plans are contingent upon UW’s Board of Regents approval of the Husky Stadium renovation project, and also assume that UW will continue meeting philanthropic fundraising targets set in the project timeline.
In addition to the 2012 season, UW announced that Qwest will host the currently-scheduled 2011 Apple Cup game against Washington State, providing the conference expansion does not change the date of the game. Moving the game off campus will allow the Husky Stadium renovation to begin earlier and ensure completion by the start of the 2013 season. UW officials also estimate saving $3 million in construction costs by starting the project earlier.
“Ensuring that our fans are back in a renovated Husky Stadium for the 2013 season was priority number one for us,” Woodward said. “When we found out that accelerating the ground-breaking would save us an additional $3 million, it became clear that moving the 2011 Apple Cup to Qwest is the right thing to do.”
First and Goal will serve as the host of the 2011 Apple Cup, pricing and consigning tickets to UW to sell with first priority to their season ticket holders. Any unsold tickets will then be returned to First and Goal, who will open sales to the general public and assume any financial risk associated with hosting the game. The other six UW home games in the 2011 season will be played at Husky Stadium.
UW’s 2012 home season in Qwest provides a different financial arrangement, with the university pricing, allocating and selling all season and single-game tickets and providing a fee to First and Goal for usage costs associated with the event.
First and Goal has a longstanding relationship with the University of Washington, which was strengthened when the Seattle Seahawks used Husky Stadium for the 2000 and 2001 seasons during the construction of Qwest Field. Qwest Field is located just 3.9 miles from the UW campus.