A move for the annual Washington vs Washington State Apple Cup to Seattle’s Qwest Field could be forthcoming starting in 2010, according to multiple reports. The change to the ‘neutral’ site is being discussed to help increase the pay outs to each school for the annual contest. Currently, the teams receive an $800,000 pay out, but if there is a 6 year agreement signed with First & Goal (the operating entity of Qwest Field), the payout would increase to $2 million for each school, a very hard proposal to pass on considering the current economic conditions.
Through upgraded seat packages, suites, and other revenue generating activities, the pay-out for a Qwest Field held game can generate far more revenue than either college stadium…..especially because the stadium can accommodate almost double what WSU’s Martin Stadium can currently hold for a Football Game. Bob Condotta of the Seattle times does a great job of figuring how the revenue will increase here.
There are many with passionate feelings on the subject, so lets objectively look at everyone’s perspective when debating such a change.
For most players, you can ask them how they feel about it and they are probably impartial.
For Cougar players, it is probably a little more of a sacrifice since a bitter-cold December game in Pullman is quite an edge for the home team. And, let’s face it: Seattle is the home of the University of Washington.
On the flip side, Seattle is a lot more convenient for many alums and player families to travel to for the game, with a far more appealing city to find lodging, restaurants, and other activities. Additionally, there are a lot of Cougar faithfuls that reside in Western Washington and are probably more likely to attend the game that is close to their home. It can be guaranteed that there will be more than the normal 20% Crimson and Gray contingent that fills Husky Stadium every other year sitting in the stands at Qwest Field come Apple Cup Saturday, and although the travel would make it feel like an away game every year, the stadium environment would act to the contrary.
For Husky players, the sacrifice would be more minimal than the Cougs. Sure, Husky stadium is a great advantage in December, and the stadium can hold more fans than Qwest. But, they get to stay in Seattle every year and can count it as a 1/2 home game in the years they would have had to go to Pullman. When all is said and done, if you asked the players that if they could be guaranteed every season to not have to travel to Pullman, the reasonable guess would be that no tears would be shed.
“Whatever they decide what’s best for us, we’ve just have to take that, and have as much fun with it as we can,” Jake tells the Bellingham Herald, something he echoes in the Seattle Times. “Whatever they decide is best for us, we’ve got to take that and have as much fun with it as we can. Qwest Field is a great stadium, and it would be fun to go over there and have the excitement of being in a big-time stadium.”
This is the shaky equation in this prospective change of venue for the Apple Cup. According to a poll in the Seattle Times, only roughly 30% think it is a good move.
When it comes to College Football Fans, the atmosphere is almost everything. Suite boxes aren’t necessary, comfort is overrated, and no one really cares if there is gourmet food available at the concessions line. This is all about our team vs yours, and it has always been fair that each team play on their opponents field every other year…..often when a Bowl Berth is on the line. If you bleed Purple and Gold or Crimson and Gray, the majority of these fans will emphatically state the same thing: Bad Idea.
But look at it from an objective point of view if you can, fans. Neutral field says it all: may the best team win. Sure, there will be more of an even distribution of fans throughout the stadium, which could increase the extra-cirricular activities in the stands. And without a doubt, hosting a game every other year and having family and friends join your tailgate to mingle with the out-of-towners from over the mountains is a priceless experience.
But, what if, Cougar fans, you could get your hands on as many tickets as Husky fans and have a better chance to not be shut out of Husky stadium when the game is for all the marbles? And Husky fans, how would you like to be able to have the Apple Cup in your back yard every single year?
It works with Texas vs. Oklahoma, the “Red River Shoot Out” at the Cotton Bowl in Texas every year–an event that gets larger with time and for a pay out that nets $850,000 to each team…much less than is being offered for the Apple Cup schools. Georgia and Florida meet in Jacksonville every year for the “World’s Largest Cocktail Party”, which also becomes a larger event year over year. Colorado and Colorado State have moved their rivalry game to the Bronco’s Invesco Field, and Missouri plays Kansas every year at Arrow Head stadium in Kansas City.
In the end, passion drives this debate and the fans could be the ones that care most….and unfortunately may have the least amount of input.
From a revenue standpoint in such a dreary time of budget deficits and increased job cuts, a $1.2 million dollar injection of cash into the Athletic Department is a big deal. Athletic Departments primary goal is to treat the program much like a business–increase revenue anyway they can and stay in the black.
For Washington State, the operating Athletic Budget is smaller than the University of Washington, and by over doubling the game revenue the offer in itself has to be appealing. And, as mentioned above, there are some of the most influential WSU alumni that reside in the city of Seattle, which could mean a lot of local support to the Athletic Department making this change. The counter argument is the hole in the home schedule for students and WSU’s faithful–without marquee draws through the non-conference schedule, the Apple Cup IS the draw on the home schedule most of the time.
For the University of Washington, the venue change could mean even more. First off, it could be a live test to see how well it will work if UW is successful in the funding of a renovated Husky stadium, a result that would make Qwest Field a temporary home for the Huskies. But more importantly, and directly related, is trying to generate as much money as possible to help that necessary end goal: Fix Husky Stadium. The travel cost for the team would obviously be saved by moving it to Qwest (compared to the Pullman travel), and the event could also increase tourism revenue at the same time…..helping the greater good of the sagging Seattle economy.
Whatever the side of the fence you are on, it is a very difficult decision. What may need to happen is a trial run–a shorter 2-year contract–to see how everyone feels afterwards before signing a long-term agreement. With Washington State being successful in hosting a game at Qwest Field a couple of times recently, the Apple Cup may be a success there too. Just don’t try and put it to a vote of the fans.