In November, the University of Utah announced plans to begin expanding Rice Eccles Stadium. The football stadium already fits 45,017 people, but the expansion will increase that number to 51,444. Construction on the stadium is expected to be completed by the 2021 football season.
On the day that the stadium expansion was announced, U president Ruth Watkins offered a statement of support. “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 Halan and his team will design and build a state-of-the-art facility that will serve our community well for years to come.”
To support this expansion, 2019 season ticket costs will be increased by $25. There will also be a five percent increase for Crimson Club donors, as well as a $50 mandatory donation for those in the north end zone and $25 for corner bleacher seats. According to deputy athletic director Scott Kull, “Hopefully, our fans will understand why we’re doing it. We want to continue to be competitive nationally and in the Pac-12 and provide a great fan experience and student-athlete experience.”
Legislators did not approve any federal assistance but did approve bonding for the $80 million renovations to the south end zone. Football has been a large source of income for the U. The last 57 football games have been sold out, and this expansion project may help to fill more seats and ultimately fulfill fans’ demands. With eight years of sold out games and 3,000 people on the waiting list to purchase season tickets, a 5,000 seat expansion would allow for those people to purchase tickets.
Not all students seem to support the expansion of the stadium. Denisse Brito, a senior in Communications and someone who has attended U football games, said: “I understand that football at the U has been important and a source of income for the university, but there are other parts of campus that also need funding and focus besides expanding the stadium.”
One purpose of the expansion is to match the Rice Eccles Stadium capacity with the rest of the Pac-12 university stadiums. “The game-day atmosphere in Rice Eccles Stadium is incredible and is about to get even better,” said Kyle Whittingham, head football coach. “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.” Overall, the project will be mainly funded by donations and is still waiting for final approval from legislatures before expansion can begin and finish in time for the projected 2021 season.
The U will work to make the construction as convenient for students as possible. There was no indication as to whether student tickets or MUSS (the Mighty Utah Student Section) tickets will increase in price.