A college football program can be the heart of a University. It is the driving force for school spirit and the breeding ground for die-hard fans. But if the team is the heart of the program, then the stadium they play in, is the soul.
For the Washington Huskies, Husky Stadium is the crown jewel of the campus located right on the edge of Lake Washington with stunning views of the Cascades, including Mt. Rainier.
But even the view wasn't enough to distract me from the towering stands which bear down on the turf field. With over 20,000 seats in the upper deck alone, Husky Stadium is one of the most intimidating stadiums in college football.
But before we get into the details of what makes Husky Stadium great, we have to establish a system to base it on.
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".
Sadly the fare at Husky Stadium is exactly what you would expect from any other stadium. There's kettle corn and hot dogs around, but in the grand scheme of things there is nothing that really sets this stadium's food apart. The occasional Ivar's Seafood and Porter's BBQ can be a treat but with 23 stands you would think that there would be a better chance for some good grub. But the typical fare can be boring and the average price of $3 for an OK hot dog isn't all that inspiring either.
You may be able to get some decent food from The Zone on the east side of the stadium, but the cost isn't exactly cheap. The Zone features local restaurants such as Metropolitan Grill, The Wing Dome and Elliot's Oyster House each with a bar. There's even a kids play area where youngsters can burn off all that extra energy before settling down for the game. The Zone opens three hours before kick-off with complimentary admission for the paying fan. The downside? You only get the full service before the game, and half time, and only limited service one hour after the game. Not the best of options for the hungry fan. Lastly, as with most college stadiums, there is no beer sold in the ticketed areas.
The Zone may not be where you want to go for food, but it is definitely where you should end up before the game. This is where the action is from booze to band, the Zone has it all. Plenty of food and drink, the Zone also offers a kid's play area complete with jumpy house. But probably best of all, it is the location of the team's entrance into the stadium. The Husky Marching Band forms a gauntlet from the buses to the stadium blaring the school fight song, as the players file into the stadium lead by Coach Sarkisian.
But if the Zone isn't your scene then you might be able to find a place in the stadium side parking lot where some of the best tailgaters gather hours before the game. Complete with flags, barbecues, lawn chairs and a weather balloon emblazoned with the logo "W" that hangs above the lot.
But that doesn't even cover the lake. Here in Washington there is the unique and phenomenal occurrence of "sailgaters", avid fans who sail into Lake Washington and lay anchor just outside the stadium shores. From there fans can get ferried to shore by the Men's crew team, or stay in their personal floating seats and watch the game on TV.
With so many different ways for fans to enjoy the game, Husky Stadium really lends itself to the fan atmosphere.
Of course the location of the stadium in relation to the campus is important, but it's even more relevant to the restaurants and bars that dot the surrounding area.
In particular, The Ram is a popular spot for fans both before, after and even during a game. Famous for its "Behemouth" burger (a whopping five pound monster) the food is exactly what the Husky fan ordered, along with several award winning beers including "Big Horn Blonde" and "Total Disorder Porter." Literally one mile away from the stadium, the Ram is the perfect place to grab a bite for the hungry fan.
Not to be outdone, Schultzy's Sausage is another hot spot for Husky fans. Also a mere mile away, Schultzy's features cheesesteaks, burgers and of course, sausages. They even claim to have the "World's Best Fries""¦modest aren't they? Featuring ales such as Veltins Pilsener, advertised as "Possibly the best food beer in the world!" Schultzy's is offering nothing but the best to the hungry Husky.
What is the number one thing you notice in a stadium? Not the food, not the color schemes of the uniforms (unless you're from UO). It's how loud a stadium is. Trust me, Husky fans have got this down to an art. Husky Stadium has always been notorious throughout their opponents' history as a loud and raucous stadium, but it even has the documentation to prove it. ESPN recorded 138 decibels of sound in a night game against Nebraska. Due to the design of the roof, the sound reverberates throughout the stadium, and has even been known to cause TV cameras to sway and shake.
The one strike against these rabid Dawg fans is the fact that even with the improved play of head coach Steve Sarkisian the stadium still doesn't quite reach that esteemed level of "sold out." So while the student section may shout and stomp their feet, until they routinely fill the entire stadium, they get just four stars.
Big stadiums are expected to have a few hiccups in their design and for Husky Stadium accessibility is one of them. The stadium is fan friendly enough but is lacking here and there. In terms of actually getting to the stadium, Husky Stadium gives fans plenty of options with a decent bus system and other public transport.
It also has abundant public parking. But what knocks this score down a few pegs is the distance fans must walk in order to reach their destination. Parking near the stadium is tough to come by and in some cases pricey. And sadly even though there is other parking available on campus, this could mean a mile or two of walking, and if you aren't familiar with the campus, this can get confusing.
Of course once you get to the stadium it gets pretty straightforward. Bathrooms are located on almost every floor of the stadium and if at first you can't find them, follow the crowd. All in all Husky Stadium can give fans a bit of a work out, but in the grand scheme of things, the walk isn't so bad.
Honestly, pricing is a pretty touchy subject for a lot of fans, especially if a rival has cheaper seats. But Husky Stadium actually has a pretty clever strategy for keeping season ticket holders happy even if the price is higher than what you would be expecting.
As far as season tickets go for Husky Stadium, the highest priced season ticket runs at about $383, the lowest at $198. Neither includes the Apple Cup but most schools tend not to include the big rival game in their pricing. However, there are quite a few perks to buying a season ticket. Benefits like choosing your seat locations for home games, priority in purchasing away tickets and bowl games, accruing priority points for season tickets in the new renovated stadium that is set to reopen in 2013.
As far as prices go Husky Stadium is pricey, but the perks make it all worth it.
It is hard to find a place where you can watch a football game, and sightsee while you're at it. In Washington, Husky Stadium does just that. With views of the Cascade Mountains reflected in the pristine Lake Washington, UW is home to one of the most picturesque stadiums in the country.
What makes this even more incredible is the fact that the stadium is actually located on campus, unlike several other colleges that either have to share their field with another team, or relocate to a professional field. UW gracefully incorporates the stadium into its sprawling campus without stuffing it into a corner. The stadium does a good job of lending itself to the fan as well, with massive overhangs that shelter fans from rain, sleet and even the occasional snowfall.
But what really helps fend off the chill is when fans dance along to the rocking Husky Marching Band.
With entertaining halftime shows, the HMB gives fans a reason to stay in their seats, and even stay to watch the "5th quarter" when the band goes onto the field to play hit songs for the lingering fans in the stadium. That is, of course, until the band moves on to "6th quarter." Slapping together an informal pep-band, of-age band members head to the tailgaters' parking lot where the average fan can request their favorite songs, like Tequila and Louie Louie, all in exchange for food and booze. A rocking good time for all who bleed purple and gold.
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