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Rice-Eccles Stadium poised for huge makeover

The University of Utah has revealed plans to expand Rice-Eccles Stadium after its Board of Trustees approved a request to pursue bonding.

The stadium renovation, which is conditional on financing approval, should be completed prior to the kick-off of the 2021 football season.

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.

University President Ruth V. Watkins said:

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.

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.

The U football team has played in front of 56 straight sell out 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.

Kyle Whittingham, head football coach, said

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.

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.

Images courtesy of Populous.

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