After a renovation project that took 21 months and cost $280 million, the only question about the new Husky Stadium was whether it would be as noisy as the old Husky Stadium.
The dark, drab stadium underbelly, which had all the charm of a Turkish penitentiary, has been replaced by a concourse with approximately four flat-screen television monitors for every five fans on the walkway. Luxury suites, video boards, and elevators – the functional kind, capable of going up and down in a single minute – are merely some of the amenities that distinguish the refurbished Husky Stadium from its decrepit predecessor.
But would the stadium sound the same? Would the infusion of opulence come with a caveat: A Husky Stadium deprived of its ability to produce the decibel level of a cargo jet at takeoff?
During the remodeling, fans were assured the $280 million palace on Montlake would be just as loud – if not louder – than it was when the home team routinely played before sellout crowds and competed for national championships.
But we wouldn’t know for sure until we knew for sure.
At 7:01 Saturday night, when the Huskies took the field through a billow of smoke outside their locker-room tunnel, we knew for sure.
At 7:20, when Washington running back Bishop Sankey bulled into the end zone for the Huskies’ first touchdown of the 2013 season, we were reminded what we already knew.
The aftershocks that followed were frequent and reliably robust.
At 7:32, a swarm of Washington tacklers threw Broncos running back Jay Ajayi for a five-yard loss. (Sustained roar accompanied by sound of fans mimicking barking dogs.)
At 7:33, cornerback Marcus Peters deflected Boise State’s chip shot of a field-goal attempt. (A roar of exhilaration accompanied by the suspicion the building was pounding.)
At 7:37, Kevin Smith hauled in a 42-yard pass from quarterback Keith Price. (Conventional stadium roar, albeit one Smith rarely has heard on his behalf.)
The new Husky Stadium rocks louder than the old Husky Stadium. It rocks louder because fans no longer are detached from the field by a track that had the effect of a dry moat. Spectators are on top of things because, well, they’re darn near on top of things.
Aside from enhanced acoustics – everything is louder, beginning with a sound system blaring ads that can be heard on the Snoqualmie Ridge – the achievement of the new Husky Stadium is that convenience hasn’t compromised charm.
The main entrance, for instance, brings the ticket-holder onto a concourse that combines splendor with tradition. Although you haven’t been here before – nothing resembles the way it was – photo murals provide a tangible link to the memories made here.
Inside one frame, defensive tackle Steve Emtman is terrorizing the 1991 Arizona Wildcats. Inside another, Corey Dillon is running for some of the 222 yards he gained during the first quarter of a 1996 game against San Jose State.
Most of the names depicted on the murals are recognizable: Sonny Sixkiller and Warren Moon, Don Heinrich and Hugh McElhenny, Paul Skanski and Spider Gaines, Chuck Nelson and Erik Folk.
But there’s also a photo commemorating the 1955 pass that Steve Roake threw to Jim Houston, who lateraled the ball to Corky Lewis for the 80-yard touchdown that helped the Huskies upset No. 10 USC.
Houston, Roake and Lewis aren’t household names, but they participated in a play that beat USC 58 years ago. They’re names in this house. Very cool.
UW teams began playing football on the shore of Lake Washington in 1920 – three years before the opening of the original Yankee Stadium. A radical face lift – think of the remolded Soldier Field in Chicago – could’ve compromised more than nine decades of history.
“What caught my attention,” Pacific-12 Conference commissioner Larry Scott said during halftime, “is what didn’t change. It’s still a place that gives homage to the water. I love how they’ve kept the look and feel of the old Husky Stadium, and yet added modern amenities for the football operations, which are state of the art.”
The look and feel of the old, with state-of-the-art improvements: It’s an amalgamation that turned out as perfect as the late-August evening destined to be recalled as the night the Huskies were able to retake Montlake.
At 9:21, when Price connected on an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Joshua Perkins, the retaking was all but official. The crowd erupted, the stadium pulsated with energy.
And yet, for the first time in, like, ever, the press box didn’t sway.
Blessed be the architects.