Seattle game sales way ahead of last year

THERE APPEAR TO BE TWO undeniable facts about Washington State's August 30 "Gridiron Classic" in Seattle against Oklahoma State: Attendance will far exceed last year's game, and the north parking lot of Qwest Field will remain off limits to tailgaters.

As of Monday, 16,225 tickets had been sold – that's 7,000 more than at this same point last year in the run up to the game against San Diego State that ultimately attracted 46,290 fans. It wasn't until late August that sales for that game breached the 16,000 mark, says WSU ticket sales director Dan Meyer.

Add in the 5,600 tickets that will be allocated to WSU students in August and the total climbs to nearly 22,000 –- one-third of Qwest's capacity -– with three months until kickoff.

"There are plenty of great seats available," says Meyer. But buy now. He's optimistic the seats will fill at a rate not seen since Jason Gesser brought the Cougs to Qwest for the first time, in 2002.

This year's big early number is driven in part by Oklahoma State, which has claimed all 5,000 seats WSU allocated to the school. San Diego State claimed less than 1,000 a year ago.

The Cowboys aside, several factors point to a big turnout. The game will be played over the three-day Labor Day Weekend. There will be no same-day competition from the Huskies or Mariners. The Seahawks play the evening before, offering an extra draw for out-of-towners. The music-food fest Bumbershoot runs all weekend at Seattle Center.

And the Cougs will be rolling out a high-flyin' new offense with a new coach and new quarterback.

For tickets or more information, call 1-800-GO-COUGS or visit

IN REGARD TO north lot tailgating, Cougar fans were shocked last year to arrive at Qwest with large signs warning against merriment. The Seahawks have stressed that the same policy will be in place on August 30. The club's thinking is driven by city ordinances about open flames but more so about worries that the state's Liquor Control Board could imperil the franchise's stadium liquor license if the lot becomes party central.

Unlike NFL Sundays, when the north lot is largely filled by staff and late-arriving season-ticket-holders with parking passes, a college game opens the lot to all-comers.

So look for the massive lots behind the Pyramid Alehouse to be jammed again.

• Game time has yet to be set, but the window between 4 pm and 7 pm is considered the most likely. Fox national, which will broadcast the game, is expected to make a decision this week in conjunction with the Pac-10.

• WSU is planning a halftime salute to former Cougar quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien to honor his recent election to the state of Washington's sports hall of fame.

• Hundreds of $7 tickets to last year's Qwest game were donated to youth charities in Western Washington by and others. If you'd like to help out with that effort this year, contact WSU's Dan Meyer at

• Fans concerned with traffic and parking at Qwest will have the option of riding to the game via Sound Transit's Sounder train, which offers service from Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, Tukwila, Everett and Edmonds.

• WSU drew 63,588 to its first "Gridiron Classic" at Qwest, against Nevada, in 2002. Attendance the following three years ranged between 50,100 and 56,200. The number dropped to 41,358 for Baylor in 2006 and then rebounded to 46,290 last season against San Diego State.

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