August Miller, Deseret Morning News
Utah's mascot "Swoop" gets the Jon M. Huntsman Center crowd going during the Utes' recent game with rival BYU. The Utes are tough to beat on their home turf.
From football, baseball and basketball to soccer, hockey and motor sports, millions of spectators are drawn annually to Utah's sporting events. However, casual observers may not have attended home games for Utah's many sports teams. The Deseret Morning News will be running an ongoing series of reports looking at many of the state's major sporting events, summarizing the spectator experience as to venue, atmosphere and cost.

Sorry, Delta Center and Marriott Center. Not quite, Dee Glen Smith Spectrum and Dee Events Center. When it comes to being the Mecca in the basketball-rich state of Utah, you can't beat the University of Utah's Jon M. Huntsman Center.

It's home to the Utah men's basketball team — the state's only program to win an NCAA hoops title and which was recently ranked No. 11 by Street and Smith's among the magazine's "Greatest College Basketball Teams of All Time."

Since its first game on Dec. 1, 1969 (christened the Special Events Center, prior to the age of corporate sponsorship of venue names), the Huntsman Center has provided the Utes a dominant homecourt advantage — a winning percentage in the mid-80s. In the last 16 seasons alone, Utah is 224-19 for a .922 percentage and is riding a 15-game home winning streak, 10th longest in the nation.

The Utes could post their eighth undefeated home-schedule season in the Huntsman's 35-year history, needing a win over San Diego State to clinch the home sweep. Utah has already powered past the rest of the Mountain West Conference at home as well as quality nonconference like LSU and Colorado. However, there have been plenty of preseason softies as well this year on the Huntsman court, including Stony Brook, Montana Western and Whitworth.

But there's more to college basketball at the Huntsman Center than the Utes alone.

The arena has played host to the NCAA tournament 12 times, with the 2006 sub-regionals next spring to be the Huntsman Center's 13th in a span of a little more than two decades. It ranks second to Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium — a facility nearly 40 years its senior — in all-time men's tournament games played, 75 and counting since 1971.

At the top of the Huntsman Center's postseason history is having hosted the 1979 NCAA Final Four, including the revered championship-game matchup, featuring Michigan State and Earvin "Magic" Johnson against Larry Bird-led Indiana State.


'Take me out to the ball game'

TEAM: University of Utah men's basketball team

WEBSITE: www.utahutes.collegesports.com

VENUE: Jon M. Huntsman Center, 1825 E. South Campus Drive, Salt Lake City. Seating capacity of 15,000 — all chair seats.

In addition to the U. basketball team, the Huntsman Center is home to Utah women's basketball, the U.'s women gymnastics meets and other university and community events and activities.

SCHEDULE: The Utes' remaining game is 1 p.m. Saturday vs. San Diego State.

ADMISSION: Single-game tickets range from $20 for lower-bowl sections to $9 to $17 for upper-bowl seats.

Order tickets by phone at 581-UTIX or online at ww.utahtickets.com.

ARRIVING: Utah experiences the usual challenges with most on-campus stadiums and arenas — you've got to go a ways from the freeways and highways to get to campus locations, with the increased traffic tying up feeder streets and campus drives.

It's not too far of a drive along Foothill Boulevard from same-named exits off I-80 and east-side I-215 near the mouth of Parley's Canyon. I-15 motorists can head east on I-80 to the aforementioned exit or meander their way through Salt Lake City from downtown-area exits.

One option that has become popular with Ute sports fans is taking the University spur of TRAX, which hooks up in the downtown area with the main line that follows the valley's backbone.

PARKING: The U.'s Crimson Club offers parking privileges to members to a number of the main neighboring lots, but the general public can find free lots not too far away — but it may require a bit of a hike.

To avoid the long lines of arriving and departing traffic and the sometimes maze-like navigating around campus parking lots, consider parking in the football stadium lot and taking a free ride on the University spur of TRAX.

FAMILIAR FOODSTUFF: From the stadium concessions stands — hot dog, $2.50; hamburger, $4; popcorn, $2-$2.50; pretzel, $2.50; nachos, $3; soft drink, $2.50-$3; beer, not available; bottled water, $2.50. Other concessions items available include bratwurst, polish dog, pizza, ice cream, candy, barbecue sandwich, cheeseburger.

EXPANDED MENU: From outside commercial vendors, offerings range from Mexican food to smoothies and kettle corn.

SOUVENIRS: T-shirts, $14-$21; replica jerseys, $45; sweatshirts, $40-50; caps, $14-22; miniball, $8; pennant, $19; program, $3; media guide, $10; fuzzy wig, $8.


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