With its striking design, stunning mountain backdrop and panoramic views of downtown Salt Lake City and the Great Salt Lake, Rice-Eccles Stadium is recognized as one of the most beautiful college stadiums in the country. While the exterior scenery is captivating, the charged atmosphere inside Rice-Eccles Stadium makes it one of the 25 “toughest stadiums in the country” for opposing teams according to Bleacher Report.
Entering the 2018 season, Utah has played to 51-straight sellouts (48 which exceeded the seating capacity) in Rice-Eccles Stadium extending back to the 2010 opener against Pittsburgh. In its first 20 years, there have been 69 total standing-room-only crowds.
The venue’s seating capacity was increased from 45,017 to 45,807 in 2014, and as a result, the top four season attendance averages and 12 of the top 15 single-game crowds in Rice-Eccles Stadium history were recorded in the last four years. The Utes averaged a school-record 46,533 fans per game in 2015, when they also recorded their best single-game attendance mark (47,825 vs. Michigan). Dating back to its 13-0 Sugar Bowl campaign of 2008, Utah’s average attendance has exceeded the stadium’s capacity for 10 consecutive years.
Opened in 1998 on the grounds of the old Ute (1927-71) and Rice (1972-97) stadiums, Rice-Eccles Stadium has seen several upgrades in ensuing years. The latest is a state-of-the-art 122 x 64-foot video scoreboard that rises 137 feet above ground and was completed in the summer of 2016. One of the largest college football video boards in the country, it features a high definition display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The enhanced software to run the board delivers some of the best special effects in the sports industry and synchronizes with the LED boards in the north end zone. Another improvement in 2016 was a distributed sound system that enhances the sound quality in every section of Rice-Eccles Stadium while also reducing noise to the surrounding community.
Rice-Eccles Stadium has also hosted a number of other major sporting events, the most prominent being the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games.
The initial groundwork for Rice-Eccles Stadium began in 1996, when former Utah Director of Athletics Chris Hill initiated a fundraising 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.
The total construction costs ran $50 million. Preliminary construction work began in the summer of 1997. Two days after the final home game that fall, 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 venue. 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.
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.
The stadium floor has also changed with the times. A FieldTurf surface with CoolPlay cork infill was installed in September 2015, marking the third version of FieldTurf laid down in Rice-Eccles since 2002. Previous surfaces (dating back to Ute Field) were natural grass from 1927-71 and again in 2000-01, AstroTurf from 1972-95 and SportGrass from 1995-99.