SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – There was no game at Rice-Eccles Stadium Wednesday but two significant events happened there and it’s no coincidence they occurred on the same day.
The University of Utah announced a new $80 million dollar expansion project to enclose the south end zone. Artist renderings and a computer animated flyover show what the stadium will look like after completion three years from now. It will add new locker rooms plus a recruiting lounge, a field level club lounge, an outdoor patio and a thousand additional seats, all combining to increase capacity from 45,807 to 51,444.
“For our football program it’s profound,” Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan told ABC4 News. “We’re able to move over 50,000 which I think is very important in the growth of our program.”
As the plans were unveiled, 5 members of the U.S. Olympic Committee toured the stadium which could host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2030 Winter Games like it did in 2002. The Committe members also visited venues in the Utah Olympic Park in Park City and the Olympic Oval in Kearns.
Afterward USOC Chief Executive Officer Sarah Hirshland spoke at a luncheon held on the 4th Floor of the Rice-Eccles Stadium Tower.
“You’ve shown us the venues. You’ve shown us its still an active part of this community,” Hirshland said. “You’ve also shown us things that are different from 2002 and that are better and things that are continuing to get better so we understand that this is a community that knows how to host an Olympic games. “
Governor Gary Herbert said that the stadium upgrade strengthens Utah’s possible bid to host the world in 2030.
“The fact that they’re going to expand and modernize this arena is just another good thing to choose Utah for the future Winter Olympics,” Gov. Herbert said.
“Anytime you get to to that 51,000 mark in capacity you can bring in other great events to the stadium,” Harlan said. “You mentioned the Olympics. I’m sure as they look at Salt Lake in the future they’ll appreciate what we’re doing here in expansion and the kind of seating we’re putting in so it’s a win-win for everybody.”
The South End Zone Project is expected to be completed in 2021, nine years ahead of those possible 2030 Winter Games.
The University says that no state or taxpayer dollars will be used for the project, which they claim will be funded through donations and a bond that they hope to repay in 14 years.