Rice-Eccles Stadium – Utah Football
The gates to Rice-Eccles Stadium opened on September 12, 1998 and fans have poured through them in record numbers ever since. In fact, for the past two seasons, attendance at Utah home football games has exceeded the 45,017-seating capacity.
The 13-0, Sugar Bowl champion team of 2008 averaged a school-record 45,585, while last year’s team averaged 45,155. Since the stadium opened 12 years ago, there have been 20 standing-room only crowds, including a turnout of 46,768 for a Ute win over California in 2003.
In 2002, people from all over the world jammed the stadium to watch the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games.
With its striking design, stunning mountain backdrop and panoramic views of the Salt Lake valley, Rice-Eccles Stadium is perhaps the most beautiful stadium in the country. It is the third stadium located on the site. Pre-dating Rice-Eccles Stadium were Ute Stadium (1927) and Rice Stadium (1972).
In 1996, Utah Director of Athletics Dr. Chris Hill initiated a fund-raising campaign to replace aging 32,500-seat Rice Stadium. A lead gift of $10 million soon came in from the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation, steered by former Ute All-America skier Spence Eccles.
Preliminary construction work began in June of 1997 and continued throughout the 1997 Utah home football season. Two days after the season ended, wrecking crews moved in and demolished Rice Stadium. Only the south end zone bleachers and the Rice name (Robert L. Rice contributed $1 million in the 1972 renovation) would carry over to the new stadium. Rising from the rubble less than 10 months later was Rice-Eccles Stadium, an imposing concrete, steel and glass edifice that dominates the Salt Lake skyline.
The total construction costs ran $50 million, of which $10 million came from private gifts, $10 million from athletics department bonding, $12 million from the University of Utah and $8 million from the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Committee.
Visible for miles is the stadium box, located 14 stories above ground and encased in a 400-square-foot expanse of tempered glass. The box is supported by twin towers containing four high-speed elevators. Occupants of the stadium box are treated to sweeping views of the Wasatch Mountains to the east and downtown Salt Lake City, the Great Salt Lake and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west.
Suites are located on the first two levels of the stadium box, while the top level is reserved for the media.
The Cleone and Spence Eccles Scholarship Box on Level 4 seats 450 and has indoor-outdoor seating, along with eight suites. The Mezzanine on Level 5 provides another 17 suites.
Level 6 features the Varsity Reception Room, which seats 400, as well as the John Mooney Working Press Area, named in honor of the late Ute football writer and Salt Lake Tribune sports editor. Three tiers of press seating can accommodate more than 100 media representatives, and there are also booths for television and radio (among them the Bill Marcroft Radio Booth, named for the former “Voice of the Utes”).
Upgrades have continued in recent years. In June 2003, Larry H. and Gail Miller donated $1.6 million for a video display system and new scoreboards. The centerpiece is a massive (22’7″ x 38′) video screen above the south end zone that shows live action, replays and more.
In 2007, an LED board stretching 200 x 4 feet across the north end zone was made possible by Utah Sports Properties at a cost of $500,000.
The stadium floor has also changed with the times and new FieldTurf was installed in June of 2009, replacing the initial FieldTurf version from 2002. Previous surfaces (dating back to old Ute Field) included natural grass from 1927-71 and again in 2000-01, AstroTurf from 1972-95 and SportGrass from 1995-99.
The south end zone bleachers, built in 1982, house the locker rooms, the Gary L. Crocker Stadium Club suite and a band room. The plaza behind the south end zone was renovated as Olympic Cauldron Park and dedicated on August 21, 2003. The 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games’ memorial contains the original cauldron that held the Olympic flame during the games.
The plaza also boasts a 6,000-square-foot visitor center/ticket and Hoberman Arch. Hoberman Arch, the backdrop for the Olympic awards ceremonies, is 75 feet long, 40 feet high and five feet wide.
Rice-Eccles Stadium & Tower
451 S 1400 E, Salt Lake City, UT