Will Husky Stadium Capacity Ever Hit 80,000?

Since its inception in 1920, Husky Stadium has increased its size on average every 17 years. It’s now been 23 years since the stadium increased its capacity to over 72,000 fans with no plans in sight to boost its size. Currently, the talk is how to keep the stadium from falling down as opposed to making it bigger. What’s keeping the stadium from growing – or rather what is keeping the fans away? Let’s take a look at the size progression over the years.

HuskyStadiumCapacity

There have been four major seat additions in the past 90 years. In 1935, 16 years after the stadium was built, capacity grew 33% from 30,000 to 40,000. Then in 1950 15,000 seats were added. In 1968 another 4,500 seats were added. And finally, in 1987 after in addition of 13,000 seats, the stadium capacity reached 72,500 where it remains today.

Perhaps the problem is the surrounding population. Is the population of Seattle growing enough to support a stadium with over 80,000 seats? Surprisingly, the population of Seattle has been roughly constant for the past 50 years as it has stayed between 500,000 and 600,000.

Seattle's Population

But this alone does not tell the entire story. The population of the surrounding suburbs has increased dramatically. Since 1960, the suburbs of Seattle have added over one million residents bringing the total population of King County to two million.

KingCountyPopulation

The problem we find is the capacity of Husky Stadium is not growing in tune with the population of King County. Over 500,000 residents have moved to the surrounding suburbs in the past 25 years without the stadium growing by one seat. In other words we have a phenomenon where the ratio King County resident per seat is ever increasing (see chart below).

P_S_Ratio

For its first 40 years, the people per seat ratio (hereafter P/S ratio) stayed roughly constant at 15 – going so high as 17 and as low as 13. Since 1960, the P/S ratio has increased from 17 to 26.

Plenty of factors could be contributing here. There was the introduction of other major sports teams, the Mariners, the Sounders, the Sonics, and the competing local NFL franchise – the Seahawks dividing the Husky fan base between pro and college sports. Also much of the growth of the area has come from immigration from other states as well as overseas. Transplants are often less likely to become loyal to local college teams than the professionals. I’ve noticed many of the new residents are not fans of American football to begin with but prefer soccer and cricket.

Will we ever see an 80,000 seat stadium? It’s possible. With a little math and the assumption both the population of King County and the P/S ratio continue to increase at their present rate, Husky Stadium will grow to be 80,000 seats in 15 years. Of course, this assumes the football team shakes off the past decade and rises to the upper echelons of the Pac-10 as order is restored to West Coast college football.

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