Deseret News Archives,
Wednesday, July 29, 1998
By Marjorie Cortez, Staff Writer
The football stadium at the University of Utah has been christened Rice-Eccles Stadium. The name recognizes benefactors Robert L. Rice and George S. Eccles.
Rice in 1972 gave $1 million to the U. to renovate the stadium.
Eccles, through the George S. and Dore Eccles Foundation, contributed $10 million toward the recent $52 million stadium expansion and renovation.
The new stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Games but it will bear a generic name during the Games, per Olympic requirements.
The stadium has been expanded to seat 46,500 people, although Games organizers believe temporary seating can boost its capacity to 50,000 seats.
U. President J. Bernard Machen said the Eccles' gift was unconditional. "We had to ask them to put their name on it (the stadium)," Machen said. The stadium will bear both names to recognize the Rice family's pioneering contributions as well as the Eccles' gift made in 1997 - $5 million up front and another $5 million "made in a challenge fashion," to spur other contributions, said Spencer F. Eccles, president of the George S. and Dore Eccles Foundation and chairman and chief executive officer of First Security Corp.
The second $5 million came after the U. raised $10 million from the private sector. Rice-Eccles Stadium is the facility's third name. For 70 years, it was known as Ute Stadium. In 1972, it was named Rice Stadium to honor Rice's contributions. David P. Gardner, Eccles Foundation chairman, who was named U. president one year after Rice's gift to renovate the football stadium, said, "In spite of his efforts, it took a while for that to pay off." Gardner joked he spent many hours in Rice Stadium in the snow and cold enduring the U. football team's then-regular pastings from rival Brigham Young University. "I've never forgotten how long those afternoons were," he said.
Rice, whose name has graced the stadium for 26 years, said he was honored his family name would be joined by the Eccles' on the stadium marquee. "We have to bear in mind we would have never been able to raise the money for the renovation without the Eccles family. I feel honored to be partners with them," he said.
First Security Bank chief executive officer George S. Eccles died in 1982 at age 81. The son of entrepreneur David Eccles, George Eccles made numerous gifts to Utah civic, cultural and educational organizations in Utah.
The Eccles family has contributed more than $50 million to the U. and its
colleges over the years. Rice's $1 million contribution to the U. in 1972 was then the largest single gift made to the university. It would be worth approximately $3.9 million in 1998 dollars.
A $52 million revenue bond was issued to cover the renovation costs. The debt will be repaid by private contributions, university reserves, an $8 million user fee from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee and ticket sales.
The University of Utah, founded as the University of Deseret in 1850 is co-educational, offering a complete college course for an average of 26,000 students. The physical education attainments are also very high. Utah's public school system ranks among the highest in the Union. Salt Lake City ranks lowest in illiteracy among all the cities of the United States.
The University of Utah football team plays all its home games in Rice Stadium - soon to be one of the most state-of-the-art football facilities in the nation. Already a beautiful 32,500-seat stadium, Rice Stadium will get bigger and better in the coming years.
The first step toward the "new" stadium took place prior to the 1995 season, when Rice Stadium became the first facility in the nation to resurface its entire field with SportGrass. SportGrass, a unique turf product that combines natural grass grown on top of a layer of artificial turf, replaced the Astroturf that has lined the field since 1972.
Starting from the turf, up the entire stadium will be transformed into a top-flight facility by the year 2002. By 1998, Rice Stadium's seating capacity will increase to over 40,000, with a new press box, VIP box and luxuary suites. The stadium will be rebuilt as a U-shaped concrete and steel structure. Before 2002, the stadium's seating capacity will jump to 50,000, in time for the Winter Olympic Games opening ceremonies. It will be a far cry from the first rudiments of Rice Stadium - those originating in 1927.
The stadium has undergone numerous facelifts in the ensuing years, resulting in its current status as a spectator-friendly facility. The first major remodeling took place in 1972, when the scholarship box (located on the east side of the stadium) was built. Also introduced at that time was a new lighting system, an Astroturf playing surface, and additional ticket and concession areas. Another big remodel occured in 1982, when the field was lowered nine-and-a-half feet, with new seats built along the sidelines and in the south end zone. A significant result of that upgrading was the construction of the Spence Clark Football Center at the south end of the field. The building houses locker rooms, a stadium club room and a band room.
One of the newest additions to Rice Stadium is a four-color matrix scoreboard. Nearly any kind of visual effect can be produced by the 4,600 individually controlled lights in the matrix - adding yet another dimension of fun to Ute football.
The stadium is a timber and concrete construction, with dirt fill. The timber will be replaced with steel in the upcoming years. The press box, located on the west side of the facility, was completed in 1966. In 1989, the press box was upgraded and the newly revamped press area was named the John Mooney Press Area, in honor of longtime Ute football writer and former Salt Lake Tribune sports editor John Mooney.
Utah's 1982 game against Brigham Young drew the most spectators ever to see a game in Rice Stadium, when a standing room only crowd of 36,250 flocked to see the annual instate battle. The Utes innaugurated Rice Stadium with a 44-6 win over Colorado Mines in 1927. In 1931 the football team won its fourth consecutive Rocky Mountain Championship.
Rice Stadium is equipped with ten full service concession stands, a vending area and six portable drink stands. The stadium offers a variety of food items for your enjoyment. The pizza stands are in the north tunnel areas. Hawkers are available for hot dogs, drinks, popcorn, and candy sales. They are required to wear a button showing the price. If a hawker is not wearing a price button, please report him/her (by vendor jacket number) to the concessions manager.
5 km / 8 minutes from the MMC
Adjacent to the Olympic Village.
|TEMPERATURE||Average February: 2.9° C (average for Salt Lake area)|
|SNOWFALL||Average February: 24.9 cm (average for Salt Lake area)|
Average annual: 163.3 cm (average for Salt Lake area)
|ALTITUDE||Base: 1305 m (average for Salt Lake area)|
|CURRENT STATUS||Site has been determined, and the venue exists. Expansion was completed in September 1998.|
|BUDGET AND FINANCE||Budget estimates were completed in November 1998.|
|AGREEMENT OF USE||Contract completed.|
Exclusive use dates: November 25, 2001 - April 15, 2002
|POST-OLYMPIC USE||University of Utah stadium.|
|PLANNED CAPACITY||Projected capacity 56,000|
|CHANGES AND EXPLANATION||Expansion was completed in September 1998.|
Source: University of University of Utah Sports Information Office
Information provided by Mark Kaller, thanks Mark for your help.