The University of Utah is undertaking a study that will weigh the feasibility of expanding Rice-Eccles Stadium, home of the school’s football program.
The study will consider what options could be available for Rice-Eccles Stadium. The facility opened in 1998, and has a current seating capacity of 45,807. Filling the stadium has not been an issue for Utah over the years, as the university has sold out every home game dating back to 2010.
According to an announcement from the university, the south end could be one of the areas that receives significant attention. “The south end zone is the only area unchanged since the stadium opened in 1998. A reconstruction could include replacement of locker rooms, equipment storage and media rooms, and space for medical services and hospitality opportunities,” the announcement states. “The study will consider the feasibility of additional suites, loges, fan interaction and concession areas, including connecting the east and west concourses.”
While exploring what will work could take place within the stadium, the study is also to give heavy consideration as to whether economic conditions will allow for an expansion. More from The Salt Lake Tribune:
Utah’s aging facility in the southern end zone also creates logistical problems, particularly when the Utes try to host recruits and bring them into the locker room after games, [athletic director Chris] Hill said. Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham has been a vocal proponent for years of closing off the bowl; the southern end zone is a free-standing building separate from the other sections of the stadium.
The time might be right for Utah football on several fronts. The department has had a 98 percent season ticket renewal rate each of the past seven years, and the team has won at least nine games in each of the past three seasons. The department’s revenue has surged since its entry into the Pac-12 in 2010, surpassing $79 million in the past fiscal year.
The need to renovate the building will give Utah a chance to take a hard look at the market forces required to expand the stadium, a project that likely will cost tens of millions of dollars without the benefit of state or university funding. Utah athletics officials have funded a number of large projects, including football and basketball facilities, through private donations in recent years, and they hope to do the same with this project.
“There’s a path where we want to have what is happening inside the stadium pay for what the renovation is going to be,” [senior CFO John] Nixon said. “We need a strong financial plan so we don’t wind up with a hole as some other universities have. There will be some bonding on it, but we’ve got have revenue to pay for that bond.”
It is expected to take months to complete the study. According to the Tribune, the university is slated to form a committee and select an outside firm for the study in the coming weeks.
Image courtesy Utah football.