Haven from the elements

A cold, blustery wind tore across the McCarthey practice field Monday afternoon. The recent snowfall gave a visual reminder of the freezing temperatures.

Not that the Ute football team noticed.

With the opening of the Spence Eccles Fieldhouse, the football team, along with the other field-based sports teams on campus, now have a weather-proof, permanent facility to practice in.

“This is the last diamond in our athletic facilities crown,” Spence Eccles said, surveying the interior. “It’s a great thrill.”

Eccles, who has his name emblazoned on the outside of the facility, was the chief donor for the $7 million structure.

“Today it’s cold and snowing and we are in here,” Eccles said. “It feels great.”

Construction was slated to be finished just in time for the BYU game on Nov. 20, but with the exception of the lobby and some exterior landscaping, the building is finished.

Featuring the same field turf used in Rice-Eccles Stadium, the fieldhouse has a full-length football field, and eventually will have a mini-theater and a Ute athletic hall of fame display.

“It feels special,” Utah Athletics Director Chris Hill said, gazing up at the lighted roof. “This is as nice a facility as any in the country.”

Hill toured several facilities during the planning process, including ones at the universities of Oregon and Washington, to get ideas for Utah’s building.

“A lot of these buildings are just completely white on the inside,” Hill said. “But with the brick walls in here, it gives it a classy look.”

Hill made sure to point out that it wasn’t just the football team that reaps the benefits.

“The soccer team was just in here practicing. They were blown away,” Hill said.

U head football coach Urban Meyer has been reluctant to only practice in the comfy confines, but has stated that the edge in recruiting will be noticeable. Even when the facility was just a plot of land, recruits were already receiving pamphlets in the mail trumpeting the new edifice.

Previously, the Utes made use of an inflated plastic bubble. The flimsy structure had a smaller playing area and was becoming outdated in the new era of college athletics. Eccles stepped in with a “challenge donation,” making sure the U and Okland construction moved forward with the assembly.

“They said it would be done by Nov. 1, and they came through,” Eccles said. “They did a great job.”

While the fieldhouse is getting rave reviews from nearly everyone, at least one person has an issue with the 65-foot roof.

“It’s not tall enough,” punter Matt Kovacevich said with a smiling shake of his head. “I can’t get much work done in here.”

[email protected]