The Pro View: We Need a New Husky Stadium
Does it make sense for the University of Washington to lay out $250 million to renovate their football stadium, while cutting programs and raising tuition, when there’s another 60,000-seat football stadium just six miles away? Of course not.
Unfortunately, life does not make sense, so the University doesn’t have a choice. Leaving Husky Stadium would cripple the Husky football team, which is something you don’t want. Even if you aren’t a football fan.
The University of Minnesota football team left their campus stadium in 1982 for the downtown Metrodome, which they shared with the NFL Vikings. Students and eventually alums stopped going, and the football program–once one of the nation’s best–has been mired in mediocrity since. An on-campus venue is particularly appealing to student and to the most important constituency–the high school juniors and seniors deciding where to play their collegiate football.
Last year, the Gophers reversed their mistake, spending $288 million for a new on-campus stadium.
College football is about tradition. You go to the same stadium year after year, the stands where your father, your grandfather, maybe your great-grandfather–watched games. The last two years I’ve shared season tickets with my Dad, who used to sneak into Husky Stadium at age 14. Breaking that tradition with a move to Qwest Field would be like breaking a spell.
So, if I’ve established to your satisfaction that a move to Qwest Field would hurt the Husky football program, you may further ask: Who cares?
People tend to forget how a sports team brings a community together like no other cultural event. Holidays like Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, and Christmas tend to have us scurrying to our family units. Even something as simple as the Chihuly museum can divide us. Sports teams bring us together. You may not be a football fan now, but if the Huskies get good again, trust me, you can get wrapped up in the spell too.
And if the goal of municipal harmony doesn’t move you, how about money?
Fact is, a university’s football team generates a tremendous amount of goodwill among alums, students and the community at large. But–especially and most importantly–donors.
Hey, I wish we lived in a world where people didn’t decide how much to give a university based on how good the football team is. I also wish we lived in a world where animals were required to wear funny hats, whiskey was free after Seahawks losses, and Mad Men never stopped production.
But we live in this world, where American institutions of learning must maintain successful football teams in order to satisfy wealthy donors. You think university presidents like this system? Hell no. Current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who sends boys to die in combat, said this about his time as president of Texas A&M: “Texas A&M football caused me more stress than any job I’ve ever had.”
Reserving two parcels of our city’s most valuable real estate for football stadiums is manifestly nutso. But we are people. We do completely impractical things. We sing. We dance. We draw. And, yeah, we spend $250 million so our grandkids can watch college kids tackle each other on the same field we did. It’s what separates us from the animals.