Husky Stadium: Why It’s Loud

In the next month, the Washington Huskies will begin practicing and eventually move into their newly renovated Husky Stadium.  Over this same time period, we will be writing a few posts about Husky Stadium.  Some will be on the technical side of the stadium and some with be based on opinion.  We hope you enjoy!

Seattle is known as a pretty passive city.  We drink our coffee and read our books.  We are usually pretty friendly on the freeway even when traffic is bad.  But, if you take some of our citizens to a football stadium you won’t know what happened.  Maybe it’s the all of the energy from the coffee?  Or perhaps it’s the pent-up anger from rush hour traffic.  Whatever it is, Seattle is known for loud football stadiums.  The Clink has been a house of horrors for opposing football teams and Husky Stadium has traditionally been among the loudest football stadiums in college football.

As much as Washingtonians would like to take all of the credit for the sheer volume, we can’t.  Husky Stadium (and the Clink, for that matter) are designed to bring out the noise.  In this post, I’ll be looking at how the stadium brings out the noise that the fan’s make.

The Design

Husky Stadium - North and West Side

Husky Stadium – North and West Side

I remember driving over the 520 bridge when I was young and my dad pointing out Husky Stadium to me.  He described it as a Z.  I didn’t know at the time, but this was a big reason as to why my ears would ring for hours after a game.

As you can see in the picture above, Husky Stadium is made up of two levels (not counting the east and west end zone).  The first level rises at a 30-40 degree angle (it might be even less of an angle than that, and it’s not nearly as steep as the second level).  Above that first level there is an overhang.  The overhang doesn’t cover much of that first level but it does create a bit of a roof.  When you want to make noise, roofs of any kind are good.  If you were to sit under that overhang and turn around, facing away from the field, and throw a tennis ball with enough velocity it should bounce off the back wall and come right back to you.  Sound waves exactly the same.  If you yell loud enough into the back wall the sound wave would bounce right back.

It’s the same if you were facing the field and yelled straight ahead (not tilting your head at all).  While some of the sound would be taken up with the evaporating air, a good share of it will go straight ahead, hit the overhang on the other side and then come back.  Most of the time (for various reasons) the sound will hit the other side and angle down toward the field.  While this alone brings a good amount of noise, the upper deck is where most of the noise comes from.

The upper deck, as I’ve mentioned and you can see, is at a much steeper angle.  The upper deck seats a few more people than it’s lower counterpart, as well.  With the steeper angle you have more people facing down and directing their sound waves directly at the playing field.  This already helps the cause.

The roofs on each side are a bit longer than the overhang on the lower level and they cover almost all of the upper deck.  The reason that domes are louder than outdoor stadiums is because none of the sound escapes.  These roofs act the same.  Even better, the roofs are lower than a dome would be.  Just like the sound reflection and bouncing on the overhang works, it works from the upper deck as well.  If you were to sit about halfway up the upper deck and yell straight down at the field, it would hit the field and then bounce up.  The bounce would send the sound wave up to the other roof and back down to the stadium again. This process would repeat until the wave eventually died.  No, one person can’t make all of these sound reflections happen but 100 could.  10,000 especially could.

While some sound will definitely escape into the dense Seattle air, the stadium is properly angled to keep much of the sound in.  That’s not the only benefit the stadium has.

The Steel

When working in a recording studio, you learn about what deadens sound.  If you’re listening back to some tracks that were just recorded, you want to hear exactly what the speakers are putting out and don’t want to hear any reflections the sound makes.  You carpet the floors, you put things over the walls (a carpet material), you widen the room towards the back and you tell people to shut up.  It’s the opposite in a football stadium.

Each material reacts to sound differently.  While pavement will bounce your scream back, it’s too dense to make a noise when you hit it (although it may cause some noise from your mouth that we can’t repeat on this family friendly blog). The lower section of Husky Stadium (the base of it) is made of pavement.  This is the same for most stadiums in the country. It’s bounces sound pretty well but not much else.  The upper deck is made of steel.  Steel is about as reflective as a material can get.  If you stomp on it, steel will make its own vibration.  If you yell into it, steel will yell right back at you.  This is why the upper deck is so noisy.  You have steel making its own sound (from stomping) and reflecting other people’s sound (yelling and clapping).

I believe that all of the wood bleachers in the stadium have been changed to steel (I may be off in this, but from the pictures I’ve seen it’s all steel aside from the suites).  While bleachers usually block sound (minimally) steel bleachers reflect it and make it louder.  Wood is more absorbent than steel.  This change in bleachers will only help the stadium be louder.

The Proximity

The South and East Side

The South and East Side

While Husky Stadium beat the rest of conference in capacity (for the most part) and design, it didn’t keep up with the proximity.  That has changed now.  If A was yelling to C but B was in between them, B would obviously hear best.  This is an easy concept.  Proximity to the field is the easiest way to make opposing teams not hear the snap count.

The students are moving to the west end zone and, while that will make the sound under the roofs decrease, I believe that the west end zone is the closest section to the field.  I don’t think the move will lessen the sound at all.

Pac-12 Comparisons

The Rose Bowl and USC’s Coliseum seat more people than Husky Stadium but their designs don’t include roofs.  There is too much sound that escapes into the sky.  This is why you don’t hear about those stadiums being the loudest in the conference.  The old bowls just don’t have the design to keep sound in.

Autzen may be the only stadium in the conference that can compare.  This is due to the proximity of the fans to the field.  They also have steep angles for the fans to yell down at.  Autzen does suffer from capacity and no roof on both sides to hold in the noise, comparatively.

Maybe the best comparison to Husky Stadium is the one right across town.  Century Link has good angles’, roofs on both sides and a pretty good capacity.  Plus, they have some good fans.

Frankly, the biggest reasons that stadiums are loud are the fans.  But, there are ways to make those sounds louder and Husky Stadium has capitalized on that.  Let’s go make some ears bleed!



Filed under Huskies Football

8 responses to “Husky Stadium: Why It’s Loud

  1. Matthew

    Cool post. I like it.

  2. Pingback: Husky Stadium: How It’s Unique | The Good Guys Sports Blog

  3. Mido06

    like it too thanks

  4. someguy

    One additional little tidbit: the acoustic engineer that consulted with the Seahawks on what is now the clink also consulted in the renovation of Husky stadium. I am told that the changes that have been made to the south portion of the stadium to some extent will make a pretty big impact. HOWEVER, the biggest change is expected to be the increased enclosure of the east\west ends of the field to hold noise in. The stadium is supposedly going to be substantially louder now.

    • That’s awesome. The extension of the south roof is a big deal and should really add to the noise. As should the wall of students in the west end zone.

      Thanks for the info!

  5. JP

    Great post.
    I highly recommend ear plugs. Not just to protect my old ears but to ensure I can keep up the noise into the 4th. I bring a pack of plugs to share the love (of noise) so nearby fans can bring it too. If you forget the fancy plugs, a balled up napkin does the job.

    ps. to the fans sitting behind us in our new seat location, please don’t be offended when we stand up and yell on defense – every play.
    go dawgs!

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