Nearly 10 months ago, Dixie State administrators stood in the Eccles Fine Arts Center on campus and announced a $10 million donation from local solar company Legend Solar to help fund upgrades to the school’s football stadium and rename it Legend Solar Stadium.
In the short term, the university scrambled together some new signage and banners for the 2016 football season. On Monday morning, though, the stadium’s renovation began for real when excavators and dump trucks began digging up the track surrounding the football field.
“Here we go, it’s real, it’s happening and to have the equipment show up and start tearing it up, it’s fantastic, it’s going to be so nice,” DSU Athletic Director Jason Boothe said.
The replacement of the football field and worn-out track is the beginning of the first phase of the highly anticipated renovation project, which will take place in three phases.
And already, the track was dug up by Thursday afternoon. The total cost of the first phase is $1,944,000, according to Boothe, who also said none of that money is coming out of the athletic budget.
Of the $1.944 million, the state legislature gave DSU $500,000 to use for capital improvement projects. Boothe said the $500,000 is the only public funding going into the project. The remaining $1.444 million is comprised of private donations, bonds through Legend Solar’s donation in April and money the Washington County Commissioners approved for the project, Boothe said.
If the price tag seems high for a turf field and track replacement (school districts in Utah have paid anywhere between $1.2-1.8 million for new turf fields and tracks), consider that part of the project includes cutting out the hillside behind the south end zone and building a retaining wall so the grass field below becomes a regulation-width football practice field.
The main differences will be on the track itself, which will now have a bunch of spaces for field events during track meets, and it will stretch wider to the east along with the field, which will become regulation size for soccer.
That affects the second phase, the east grandstand construction, a little more because the grandstand will definitely cut into the street behind it.
The school’s goal is to have the track and field completed by early summer, no later than June 30 in preparation for the July 4 concert the university plans to host. The track and field will be open to the public after the renovation, but with some more pronounced rules and regulations on usage.
DSU is employing Layton Construction for the project, which touts Rice-Eccles Stadium and Rio Tinto Stadium in its plethora of sports-related construction projects.
The firm also touts the recently-completed Campus View Suites at Dixie State, the school’s new student housing unit, as well as the Dixie Applied Technology College.
Boothe said FieldTurf will be the subcontractor for the turf replacement and Benyon will take care of the track. The school dealt directly with FieldTurf when it redid the field in 2010, though the track, estimated to be around 15-20 years old, wasn't updated then.
There are two main short-term effects to the construction, the first being that the stadium is closed to the public, and the second being that Dixie State’s football team will have its spring practice on the grass field between Burns Arena and the Holland Building.
The second phase of the project might not be that far away.
“Hopefully during our football games in the fall, we’re seeing steel start to go up. I think it’s realistic because our ultimate goal would be to have it available for high school championships as soon as possible,” Boothe said.
He hopes that work on renderings and design of the grandstand can start in the spring, but it depends on if the state legislature allows the school to go ahead with the second phase, even if the bonds for the second phase don't take effect until July 1.
The one issue that the school will have to deal with regarding the east grandstand is how it cuts into the road behind it due to the widening of the track and the size of the grandstand, which is expected to add 5,000 seats to the stadium’s capacity.
A likely scenario would be rerouting the road, since it would be hard to justify taking it out altogether.
It’s one of the ways to leave campus after basketball games, which helps ease the notoriously slow process, as well as a popular exit point for normal weekday campus traffic.
Right now there aren’t any renderings or plans regarding the next phase of the project, and as such there’s no ballpark cost estimate either. The entire stadium renovation project has an estimated cost between $30-35 million.