University of Washington Venue Spotlight

By Mike Gastineau - USA Games COrrespondent

In addition to housing and feeding the 4000 athletes who will be in Seattle for the 2018 USA Special Olympics Games the University of Washington (UW) is also hosting much of the competition as well as the opening ceremonies.

Dan Erickson is the Assistant Athletic Director for Events and Facilities at UW and he said the entire UW community is excited to play such an important role.

“Our staff has talked about it and it’s such a positive event that we’re all excited to have here. Our teams are interested in helping out as much as they can. There’s a great atmosphere around it and the anticipation has created a connection within the university. All the athletes will be living on campus so it’s giving us a chance to work with our campus partners in a different way.  We’re all working towards this one big event that we’re all a part of and contributing to and that’s a unique and cool thing to do.”

The 2018 USA Games Athletics competition will be held at Husky Track. It’s one of the newest and nicest track and field venues in America, hosted the 2016 PAC 12 track and field championships, and features all the modern amenities you need. But when he’s asked to describe it, Erickson skips all that and gets right to the point.

“The coolest thing about the track is that it’s purple!” he laughed. 

In addition to a home friendly hue, Husky Track features new bleachers, lots of parking, and permanent restrooms right next door at Husky Ball Park.

Bocce players will compete in the beautiful Dempsey Indoor Center which was built in 2001 primarily as an indoor facility for UW football but has become a valuable building for the entire athletics department. 

“It’s the most popular venue for our student athletes,” Erickson said. “All our teams want to be in there. It contains an indoor track and is one of the top indoor venues in the country. Our baseball, softball, and soccer teams all use it. It’s a great training space for all of our teams on a year round basis.”

The indoor part of the Dempsey Center is perfect during the long, rainy winters in the Pacific Northwest but the 2018 USA Games are in July when presumably it will be warm and sunny. Not to worry according to Erickson. 

“We have two large garage doors on the east side of the building facing Lake Washington that can be opened to create a nice cross breeze. With doors on the west and north side as well the venue really opens up and breathes.”

The 2018 USA Games basketball competition will take place in a new gym in one of the oldest on campus buildings in America. The Alaska Airlines Arena is located inside the Clarence S. “Hec” Edmundson Pavilion which was first opened in 1927.  The entire arena was renovated in 2000 and updated in recent years with a new video board and new carpet on the concourse. The floor of the arena was resurfaced and repainted in 2017.

Part of the basketball competition will take place at Marv Harshman Court which is named after the longtime UW basketball coach and can be accessed right off the concourse of the Alaska Airlines Arena. Erickson said that court was also refinished and repainted in 2017 and new lighting was installed.

Finally, the University of Washington will also play host to the much-anticipated opening ceremonies of the 2018 USA Special Olympics Games at the showplace venue on the school’s campus, Husky Stadium.

“The opening ceremonies will be a great way for us to showcase what we call the greatest setting in college football,” Erickson said of the 70,000 seat stadium located next to Lake Washington. “You can’t ask for a better view.”

Contemplating the thought of a capacity crowd welcoming the competitors to the 2018 Games in a spectacular ceremony at Husky Stadium on a warm July night Erickson sums up the feelings of many:

“You couldn’t ask for much more than that.”