Basketball players, U.S. presidents, billionaire computer moguls and Boy Scouts: what do these people have in common? All are part of the rich history surrounding one of the UW’s most iconic buildings: Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Fondly referred to by students, staff, faculty and alumni as “Hec Ed,” the pavilion has witnessed 79 years of Husky athletics and a major restoration project, all the while serving as the UW’s primary indoor athletic and entertainment performance space. Hec Ed, originally called the Washington Men’s Physical Education Building, was dedicated in 1927, with the men’s basketball team winning their inaugural game against Illinois. Hailed as the “Madison Square Garden of the West,” it was the largest arena west of the Mississippi River when it was opened.
Hec Ed’s original construction serves as a testament to students’ impact on the UW campus. Of the $700,000 total construction cost, $600,000 was raised by the ASUW in the seven years prior to construction. “They didn’t go to alumni like they do now,” says Dave Torrell, ’62, curator of the Husky Hall of Fame. “They just went to the students, which would be pretty unusual today.”
The pavilion has elements of the Tudor Gothic style found in buildings on the upper campus. Distinctive Husky gargoyles are prominent on the Montlake Boulevard side of the building. They are surrounded by a checkerboard pattern of tiles that is repeated on every Husky championship banner.
In 1948, the name was changed to its current tide, in honor of men’s basketball and track coach Clarence “Hec” Edmundson’s retirement. A man known to his players and fans as “Uncle Hec,” Edmundson spent the majority of his time in the pavilion, either coaching his basketball teams to a 488-195 record over his 27-year career, or imparting his wisdom to the track teams.
The passing of Title IX in 1972 more than tripled the number of teams that practiced in the facility, which was designed to serve only seven sports. Scarred wooden boards covered the pavilion’s original dirt floors; pole-vaulters and javelin throwers practiced next to the football team as the volleyball players ran laps; and spectator seating shrank from 10,000 seats to 7,900.
“The place was kind of a carnival of risk,” recalls Chip Lydum, ’84, associate athletic director of facilities and events management. “It really was multi-purpose because they had all sports going at the same time.”
An overhaul in the late ’60s allowed Hec Ed to double as a theatrical venue as well. Simon and Garfunkel played there for the 1968 Homecoming. But the slight modifications were not enough. The threat of future seismic events created an urgent need to repair the structurally unsound areas.
In November 2000, Hec Ed reopened after a 19-month renovation project, this time financed by athletic department reserves, donors and corporate sponsors. Bank of America purchased the naming rights to the playing space inside the building, which is known as “Bank of America Arena.” Team practices were moved into the Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility. ”After the renovation, Hec Ed became a higher-caliber event center,” Lydum says.
Since it reopened, players and fans have given it another name: the “Dawg Pound,” home turf of the Husky men’s basketball team. At the Jan. 2 game against Cornell, the men’s basketball ream celebrated its 800th win inside the pavilion, more wins than any other NCAA men’s team playing on its current court.
“I think our students and players kind of get it,” Lydum says, “that this is a cool place to play.”