Packing up the Dawg Pack

Despite releasing a statement confirming plans to relocate the Dawg Pack in the renovation of Husky Stadium, the athletics department gave a presentation and responded to questions from students at an ASUW senate meeting regarding the move last night.

According to the press release, “The [renovation] plan, which keeps tickets affordable for students and does not implement a student fee, includes an enlarged Dawg Pack section which will move to the west side of the stadium … Without a move of the student section, the renovation is simply not possible from a financial standpoint.”

The statement included comments from UW athletic director Scott Woodward, head football coach Steve Sarkisian and Husky Stadium Advisory Committee member Ron Crockett.

In the release, Woodward emphasized that the athletics department seriously considered the student opinion in its decision to relocate the Dawg Pack.

“Gathering student feedback was a priority for us, and after hearing from a wide range of sources we feel confident in our process,” Woodward said. “We heard consistently that students were opposed to a student fee and that ticket affordability was important, and we are happy that our vision is aligned with both of those student priorities.”

Those comments were echoed by associate athletic director Jennifer Cohen, senior associate athletic director O.D. Vincent and Crockett at the ASUW Senate meeting as they fielded questions from both senators and non-senators.

Vincent spoke about the process the athletics department went through to plan for the renovation, noting that they met with student groups before the project was approved by the Board of Regents on Nov. 18.

Vincent said that they have searched high and low for a solution other than moving the Dawg Pack and found that “there hasn’t been one out there.”

Crockett spoke about the financial situation, saying that students need to understand the financial aspects of the decision.

“Here’s the flat facts: We have to raise the $15 million [annually],” Crockett said.

He told students to “look at the other schools in the country,” citing that other institutions which have renovated in the last decade do not have student sections at the 50 yard line.

According to the press release, “Over half of the 14 institutions [that have remodeled in the last decade] have a student fee which helped fund the renovation.”

As the board answered questions, students repeatedly commented about their experience in Husky Stadium and their resistance to letting it be altered. Athletics representatives responded by saying the student experience was one of their priorities.

When asked how students were involved in the planning process for the stadium, Cohen responded that student groups had been involved since October. They met with the Board of Directors of ASUW and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, the Washington Student-Athlete Advisory Council and held student focus groups.

“We approached students in late October when we were developing our financial model,” Cohen said, and reminded students of athletics’ economic situation.

“One thing that is really important for everyone to understand is how tight our budget is,” Cohen said. “We have other facilities and other needs that we are unable to meet right now.”

She also explained that the department chose to do this project now because the maintenance costs for the current stadium are “in double-digit millions.”

Students who resisted the idea of moving the Dawg Pack to the west end zone posed the majority of comments and questions, but some students did say they understood athletics’ decision.

Senior Nick King, a member of the Greek community, commented that he felt his perspective had been taken into consideration and that students needed to accept the plans for the stadium.

“This is going to happen whether we like it or not,” King said. “Why don’t we make this experience the best one possible?”

Athletics representatives mentioned ideas for improving the student experience despite the move, including a student-only entrance and discounted student concessions. Cohen commented that the new field will be “similar to Qwest field.” Spectators will be brought much closer to the game.

“We believe the Dawg Pack will be a better experience overall,” Vincent said. He commented that if enjoyment of the game was directly related to seating arrangement, “over 80 percent of students in America would leave unhappy.”

Cohen and Vincent also spoke about the Husky Stadium renovation project thus far.

“The project is a $250 million project. It is 100 percent privately funded,” Cohen said.

The statement also said that “Intercollegiate Athletics will now assemble a Dawg Pack Task Force who will aid in creating and implementing ideas for the student experience.”

“Student involvement is huge to us,” Woodward said in the statement. “In meeting with our project architects, we have expressed that developing a tremendous student experience is a top priority. We will make sure that the Dawg Pack stays together, stays loud and affordable, and stays a focal point of Husky Stadium.”

$50 million will be raised through major gift contributions, and the remaining $200 million will be generated through new annual revenues. The stadium will seat the same amount of people. Ground breaking is scheduled for November 2011, and the UW has announced it will play the 2011 Apple Cup and its 2012 home season at Qwest Field. The new stadium will be open for the 2013 season.

Reach reporter Sarah Schweppe at news@dailyuw.com.

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