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Official Review by Benjamin Evensen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Alaska Airlines Arena, or “Hec Ed” as it’s known around Seattle, has been home to University of Washington basketball since it opened in 1927. The stadium sits on the University’s campus and right next to Husky Stadium where the football team plays.
The arena is named after Clarence S. “Hec” Edmundson, who coached Husky basketball and track and field from 1920-1947. Hec Ed has also been the host of two Final Fours, in 1949 and in 1952.
In 1999, the arena underwent major renovations, costing $40 million in all. Seats, locker rooms, athletic offices, and Hall of Fame sections were all overhauled and replaced in the renovations. The seating capacity was brought up to 10,000, which is what it still is at today. It is the third-smallest arena in the Pac-12.
Hec Ed is also home to Husky women’s basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics teams.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food at Hec Ed is nothing special, but simply what you would expect at a typical sporting event. Their basics are there; hot dogs, pizza, candy, soda, etc. But nothing stands out. This does come as a surprise though, as the other Seattle sports stadiums such as Century Link Field, Key Arena, and Safeco Field have many food options that are unique to the Seattle area. The options at Hec Ed are underwhelming to say the least, but they are not bad either. Prices are your typical, overpriced stadium prices as well.
Hec Ed has been the home of Husky basketball for over 70 years, and in the rafters of the stadium hang the banners of Pac-12 Championships, NCAA tournament appearances, and more from other sports. The arena has a feeling of the entire history of Husky basketball; the good times, the bad times, and everything in-between.
That being said, there is still just something lacking. The University of Washington has not had much success in their history of men's basketball but the arena is certainly a place with a lot of history that has come with its age. It is different than that of Kansas, Duke, or North Carolina - schools where the atmosphere of the stadium is tied with championships, Final Fours, All-Americans, and legendary coaches. Hec Ed just doesn't deliver the same type of historical feel.
It isn't a must-see in the world of college basketball, but it's still a unique venue that brings a very strong sense of pride to Husky athletics.
While it may be a smarter idea to drive, as the arena isn't within short walking distance to many attractions, the area around the campus in North Seattle is one of the best in the country. The campus is right on Lake Washington, and the views of the mountains in the distance are breathtaking. University Village has many unique options to get a bite to eat, and if you hop on I-5 for a short drive into downtown Seattle, famous attractions such as Pike's Place Market, the Space Needle, and the Waterfront are more than doable before or after the game.
The University of Washington is the premier college school in the city of Seattle, and the loyal following of Huskies across the Pacific Northwest flock to Hec Ed to support their team every home game. They are loud, proud, and very into the game. The student section is always packed and very into the game, sporting the purple and gold, along with crazy costumes to add to the fun.
The stadium was about 95% full, and for a midweek game, that is certainly not bad. The fans were very into the game, and as it came down to the wire, they made sure to be loud, and created a very intense environment.
With Husky Stadium immediately next door, there is more than enough parking for the much smaller seating capacity-wise arena. Prices are expensive though, so expect to pay around $10 to park in the lots next to the arena.
Getting to the arena can be a hassle if you are unfamiliar with the area, but it shouldn't cause too much of a problem. If you do not plan on doing anything before or after the game, an option I choose to use quite a bit is the metro service. There are many park and rides across the Eastside and south of Seattle, and busses always run right to the arena. It can be a great way to avoid problems getting in and out of the stadium parking lots, and getting home in a faster, more efficient manner.
If you do choose to drive yourself, you should not expect to run into many problems.
The University knows how popular they are around the Seattle area and takes full advantage of that in their ticket prices. Even for the very top levels, you can expect to pay $36. The mid-levels are in the $40-$50 range, and only go up from there.
But that only is when they are playing just any-old team. In the case of my game, that was Stanford, who does not have much of a following in Seattle. It is much more expensive for a team like Oregon who has a large following in the area. Tickets for those games are about $20 higher than normal rates for the nose-bleeds, which is nowhere near the value of the experience. You can expect that for games against Oregon, Oregon State, instate-rival Washington State, and other big time programs that may come to Seattle. Unless you have strong ties to those schools, I do not suggest attending games vs those schools.
For most games, when the prices are "normal," it still can be frustrating for how much you are paying. For just a college basketball game, I have a hard time convincing myself that it is worth around $80 per person with ticket price, parking, and food for just one game - and that isn't even against a "marquee" opponent. You might be better off paying about $20 per person (including tickets and food) at Key Arena for a Seattle U basketball game, who also is a division 1 basketball program.
One of the best things about Hec Ed is the other attractions inside the arena. The school's athletic Hall of Fame is open to everyone inside the arena, and has bowl game trophies, historic sports memorabilia, and walls of famous Husky moments in all sports. It really is a must-see if you attend a game there.
There also is a large team store in the arena, with lots of Husky apparel and memorabilia available for sale.
As far as college basketball arenas go, Alaska Airlines Arena is just not a "must-see" arena. It feels old at times, lacks more than basic food options, and is severely overpriced. Yet for Husky fans, it still holds so much history to the University, and once inside, it certainly is not a bad place to see a basketball game. It just is not a "top-level" venue in the college basketball world.
Around the arena, there is a beautiful campus, city, and so much to do. If you have the budget, making a trip to Seattle with a Husky basketball game as part of the plan will make for a very fun day. It holds a lot of value to the millions of Husky fans in Seattle, and you are not going to have a bad time going.
If you love Husky basketball and are in the Northwest, then you are in for a nice time going to a game at Hec Ed.
Member Review by toddyoshio on Jan 18, 2013
I have been to Husky Basketball games for years and this year is the best it has been. They have new video boards all around the Arena, in the bowl and in the concourse, which really adds to the experience. The intro videos and marketing is really well done and they have contests that make it fun for everyone.
2650 Northeast University Village St
Seattle, WA 98105
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