University of Utah OKs $80M bond for Rice-Eccles Stadium expansion

14 November 2018

The University of Utah board of trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an $80 million nonstate revenue bond to upgrade and expand Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The trustees’ approval comes as the U.S. Olympic Committee prepares to visit 2002 Winter Games venues on Wednesday, among them the stadium, which was the site of the Games' opening and closing ceremonies.

Committee members are conducting site visits as part of the process for selecting an American city to bid for a future Winter Games. On Monday, Reno-Tahoe, one of Salt Lake City’s competitors to host another Winter Games, dropped out of the running.

A luncheon at the stadium with Gov. Gary Herbert and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski is on the tour schedule.

A press conference by university officials is scheduled earlier in the day to unveil details of the stadium expansion plans.

Utah State Board of Regents will consider the U.’s amended campus master plan, which includes the stadium upgrade, later this week. The regents will consider the stadium expansion bond at that time.

The stadium’s current capacity is approximately 45,800, although it held 47,825 people for a football game against the University of Michigan in 2015, according to Wikipedia. It is one of the smaller stadiums among PAC-12 universities.

The expansion would bring the capacity to over 51,000 seats and include suites, loge and terrace seating, said Mark Harlan, U. athletic director.

“We are completely sold out of all of our premium seats as we sit today, so that will really allow us to bring that kind of client into the stadium,” he said.

Harlan added: “Of course were going to put everyone back that’s also in the south end zone."

Planning for the south end zone upgrade was well underway when Harlan joined the university as athletic director in July, he said.

Under former U. Athletic Director Chris Hill, consultants were hired to determine support for the expansion and identify products that would work well with the upgrade.

Harlan said there are two overriding concerns with the project: that it not hurt the university financially and that the U. football program continue its sellout streak.

"It's a sense of pride and something other universities would pray for," he said.

Financial projections indicate the project is on solid ground, he said.

Assuming even a 55 percent "sell-through" of tickets to events hosted at the stadium, "we break even on the project," he said. The actual sell-through rate is anticipated to be substantially higher.

"If all goes right, and we expect very confidently it will, we can pay this all off in 14 years," he said.

The project will also be supported by $35 million in private giving, according to Harlan.

The project will include improvements in dressing facilities that are sorely needed, he added.

"We’ll be able to run our games in a PAC-12 manner."