SALT LAKE CITY — There's a new trailer park, of sorts, just west of Guardsman Way between 500 and 800 South. It isn't much to look at from the outside. The exterior, however, doesn't tell the story of the Utah football program's temporary quarters. It's like a book and shouldn't be judged by its cover.
"It's exceeded all my expectations and it's really a great setup," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of the 26-trailer complex (approximately 25,000-square feet) adjacent to the Utes' new $30 million football facility that is under construction. "Even though it's temporary, it will serve our needs just fine."
Fused together by a covered wooden deck, the complex will house the program until May of 2013 when work on the massive permanent facility is expected to be complete.
Until then, the Utes will operate out of the trailers.
"We're not compromised in any way," Whittingham said. "It's all very functional and we have plenty of space. It takes care of all of our needs."
Besides offices, meeting spaces, a dining area and a place to store the equipment, there's an area for the trainers to work and a complete locker room.
The interior of the trailers is much nicer than people expect.
So much so, in fact, that Whittingham noted that it doesn't give you the feel of being in a trailer. He acknowledged, however, being a bit skeptical about the situation when it was first presented. That picture, at least in his mind's eye, was far different than the end product.
Whittingham said he was sold on the trailers by Jeff Rudy, Utah's director of football operations. Rudy had seen it work at other schools, including California, and it was deemed as the best option for Utah.
"Cal was one that we looked at pretty good because they were in trailers for over a year," Rudy said while noting that other options would have been more intrusive on the nearby tennis center and Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Whittingham credits Rudy for doing a "fantastic job" of deciding what spaces were needed and working out the details. Rudy said maximizing space and making the temporary quarters as functional as possible was a collaborative effort with the contractors and architects.
What Rudy considers most impressive, however, is how quickly things came together. Winter conditioning ended on March 9 and the football headquarters were fully operational from the trailers just four days later.
It met with immediate approval.
"It's actually a better setup than what we were working from. Obviously, though, it's not as nice," safeties coach Morgan Scalley said while acknowledging the benefits of everything being on the same floor — meeting space, rest rooms, etc. "That's a big plus. So it's actually, in some ways, much more functional than what we were dealing with. Although, obviously, we were very grateful to have the Dee Glen Smith Center."
Whittingham helped bulldoze the old facility on March 27. Construction on its state-of-the-art replacement has been ongoing ever since.
"It seems like it's going fast. It really does. Time goes by pretty fast," Scalley said. "You don't get those opportunities to just sit there and wait because everything's already in fast-forward mode. So it'll be up before we know it."
In the meantime, though, it's all about the trailers and its nicer than-you-would-think interior.
"It was definitely a big surprise, though, when we got here as a team. We didn't expect this. The biggest surprise was probably like the showers and stuff. I didn't expect it to be so nice," said wide receiver DeVonte Christopher. "It's actually pretty nice in there. We've all got our own stalls and stuff like that. So the trailers are working out pretty cool. It is what it is."
Although a bit bummed out that he'll finish his Utah career in the trailers instead of the new facility, Christopher is confident the move will definitely not hold the Utes back this season. It's something Whittingham has already stressed and gotten out of the players' minds.
"So we're cool with that," Christopher said.
Christopher and the other seniors will get to use part of the new complex, however. Sod will be placed on the main grass practice field in about a month and is expected to be ready by August.
Whittingham acknowledged such things provide "light at the end of the tunnel" as the Utes await completion of the mammoth project.
As Utah prepares for its second season in the Pac-12, the facility is a necessity.
"It's absolutely critical," Whittingham said. "It's all tied to recruiting and you've got to keep your facilities up to par with the people you are recruiting against. That's really the long and short of it."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company