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Storm relocation introduces new logistical challenges and changes for Hec Ed

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The arena that Husky fans know and love will look different moving forward after a recent renovation to the court and lower bowl seats finished just in time for the Seattle Storm’s tilt at Alaska Airlines Arena.

The biggest problem facing the Storm and UW Athletics revolves around air conditioning. Previously, Hec Ed did not have air conditioning for its main court, so it couldn’t cool to the WNBA’s specification of 68 degrees at the start of each game. The WNBA specifies that the court also can’t get above 72 degrees during the game.

Instead of installing huge AC units around the hardwood, a less permanent approach was taken by the Storm and the UW.

“We have two major air handlers on the north and south side of the arena,” assistant athletic director Dan Erickson said. “And [they’ve been] working with campus facilities to install cooling coils so we can have temporary air conditioning.”

Erickson has been working with the Storm to overcome this obstacle.

“We’re gonna have two chillers literally on a trailer that’s gonna be piped up into the air handlers that’s gonna blast in the air and cool down and that’s gonna air condition the court, so it’s quite the extensive project,” Erickson said.

The system will only run for a few hours before games to get the court to its necessary temperature and then throughout the duration of the games.

Both the chilling coils have recently been installed outside the arena and the team is close to finishing up some of its inner workings.

The Storm and UW Athletics have already been running tests in anticipation of the Storm’s first Hec Ed contest against the Indiana Fever this Sunday, and things should be ready to go before then.

Another challenge is that Hec Ed did not have a license to sell liquor until just recently for the Storm summer season, but selling alcohol is an important part of professional basketball games.

“We’ll be serving beer and wine for the first time at the venue, which will also be a very good test run for us,” UW athletic director Jennifer Cohen said. “So we’re gonna see how it goes. We may actually adopt that policy for our athletic events as well in that arena.”

Hec Ed has been under renovations throughout spring, which would have been done regardless of the arrival of the defending WNBA champions.

One major change is the replacement of the court itself. It will still have the UW logo on the court but with some added Storm decals. The chairs and bleachers in the lower level — the area that the Dawg Pack is located — will also be brand new this summer and will be minorly reconfigured as well.

“It’s new courtside seats, it’s bigger chairs, more comfortable chairs, we have cup holders in a lot of the chairs, it’s just a sturdier bleacher,” Erickson said. “It’s a nice, new court.”

As the Huskies are preparing for their own seasons at Hec Ed and its facilities, it will have to share a newly renovated venue with the Storm, at least for the time being. Storm fans from far and wide will find this temporary home to be a worthy setting to help the team defend its title.

Reach reporter Josh Eddy at Twitter: @JoshTreEddy

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