The University of Utah is moving forward with plans for a Rice-Eccles Stadium expansion, as its Board of Trustees has authorized a request to pursue bonding. The expansion, estimated at $80 million and conditional on financing approval, is slated for a 2021 completion. The board approved the project at its meeting on November 13.
“Today is an important first step in a multi-year process to expand and enhance Rice-Eccles Stadium, and I am thrilled that our community and supporters have come together to make it a reality,” said U President Ruth V. Watkins. “Our stadium serves as more than a home field for our football team. It can be a gathering place on our campus for many other events—connecting thousands of students, alumni, faculty, staff and fans to our institution and to one another. I am confident that Mark Harlan and his team will design and build a state-of-the-art facility that will serve our community well for years to come.”
A 2017 feasibility study, which surveyed ticket purchasers, athletic donors, alumni and fans, demonstrated strong community support and a market demand for the expansion. Construction costs will be covered primarily through fundraising, sponsorships and revenues generated by new premium seating areas. No state or taxpayer dollars will be used in the project.
The estimated $80 million expansion will involve demolishing and rebuilding the south end zone, which was built in 1982 and was the only piece of old Rice Stadium retained when the current stadium opened on the same grounds in 1998. Plans call for enclosing the bowl by connecting the east and west concourses on the south end, increasing audience capacity from 45,807 to 51,444.
“In evaluating several options for Rice-Eccles, the expansion and enhancement of the south end of the stadium became the best option for Utah Athletics,” said U Athletics Director Mark Harlan. “I want to thank President Watkins, the Board of Trustees and our generous supporters for putting momentum behind this massive project. It is a game-changer for Utah football, as well as for all of our athletics teams that will benefit from the anticipated new revenue. We will build this as a community and celebrate many victories in an enhanced game-day environment in the decades ahead.”
The U football team has played in front of 56-straight sellout crowds in Rice-Eccles Stadium, dating back to its 2010 season opener. The season ticket waiting list includes nearly 3,000 people, and the Utah ticket office has received more than 1,000 requests from current season ticket holders to add or upgrade seats.
Included in the changes is the addition of 1,000 chair or bleacher seats, which will be available for general purchase in the south end zone. All current season ticket holders will have the option to keep their seats.
The south end zone project will also enhance the fan experience by adding premium seating in luxury suites and loge boxes, as well as club, ledge and rooftop seating. The dilapidated locker and meeting rooms below the current south end zone stands will be replaced with new locker rooms for the home and visiting teams, rooms for coaches and officials and rooms for athletic training, equipment, press operations and the Utah Marching Band. A kitchen, recruiting lounge, field-level club lounge and outdoor patio are also in the plans.
“The stadium expansion will be a great addition to an already outstanding college football venue and will put us right in line with the rest of the Pac-12 in terms of capacity,” said Kyle Whittingham, head football coach. “The game-day atmosphere in Rice-Eccles Stadium is incredible and is about to get even better. The new locker rooms, sports medicine facilities and hospitality areas will be a huge plus in recruiting. We want to thank President Watkins, Mark Harlan and our donors for stepping up to make this a reality.”
Image courtesy University of Utah.
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