SALT LAKE CITY — There’s more than Independence Day to celebrate up on the hill. After being housed in trailers for more than a year, the University of Utah football program is moving into its new state-of-the-art facility this weekend.
The $32 million complex is substantially complete, allowing the Utes to begin inhabiting a center that features a wide array of amenities and cutting-edge technology.
“We were in dire need of this facility. The one aspect of our facilities that was not up to speed was the football center,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who noted that Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Burbidge Family Athletics Center and Spence Eccles Field House are all top notch. “So this will be a big plus for our program.”
The new building covers more than 120,000 square feet and includes the latest in sports medicine and training, hydrotherapy and related equipment, a cafeteria and nutritional area, lockers and showers, offices, an auditorium, team classrooms and meeting spaces, a place to study, a Hall of Fame, a media studio with editing and production facilities, equipment management and storage, plus a practice field.
The complex adjoins the 19,000-square-foot Alex Smith Strength and Conditioning Facility and is adjacent to the indoor practice field and a soon-to-be-built outdoor field with artificial turf — giving Utah’s program a complete complex as it embarks on year three in the Pac-12.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to recruit to the building,” Whittingham said. “It’s an impressive facility, and in this day and age of college football, recruits are making their comparisons with different programs. You need to be up to speed to be able to compete.”
Jeff Rudy, Utah’s director of football operations, considers the new facility one of the best in the country.
“I think it’s a very good thing,” he said, adding that it’ll help the program out and everyone is excited about it.
Rudy served as liaison for the project — acting as eyes, ears and mouthpiece from the football side of things.
“I’m just the ‘lucky guy’ that had to go to all the meetings and make sure that everybody else’s voice within basically this city of a program was being heard,” Rudy said.
The master plan, he explained, involved the creation of three lists. They included what the program had, what they needed and what they wanted.
And in the end, just about everything was accommodated.
Rudy credits Utah athletics director Chris Hill and the entire university for being supportive of the project.
“The biggest thing we did in this facility was function,” Rudy said. “It’s got to function for the program. It’s got to serve a purpose. I’m hoping we hit the nail on the head there.”
Rudy didn’t act alone. He credits a lot of others for helping to bring it all together. Contributors include Hill, Whittingham, Kyle Brennan (senior associate athletics director), Ann Argust (associate athletics director), Kelly Sharitt (director of football equipment operations), Doug Elisala (director of strength and conditioning), Matt Dimmitt (football video coordinator), Todd Campbell (director of broadcast and video services), Paul Silvestri (head football athletic trainer), Trevor Jameson (director of sports medicine), Eric Yochem (football trainer) and Beth Wolfgram (sports dietician).
“All have been a huge help,” said Rudy, who noted that it’s pretty much been a two-year process.
Whittingham credits Rudy and Brennan for taking the lead and serving as troubleshooters for the projects. As such, there were very little distractions for the coach.
“There’s a lot that goes into building something like that, I can tell you that,” said Whittingham, who visited the facility at least once a month or so during construction. “It was a very complex project and thousands of details that had to be attended to. But I was fortunate where it wasn’t a disruption to what we’re doing over here.”
Rudy and administrators looked at other football centers as part of the process.
“We did our homework. We looked at a bunch of different facilities and projects that were on the drawing tables,” Whittingham explained. “So we researched it every which way we possibly could.”
As a result, Utah is moving into something very special — a facility that Whittingham said is all about the players.
“We feel like we’ve got a state-of-the-art building that will compete with anybody’s in the country,” he added. “It’s a big, big addition to what we’re doing.”
Whittingham acknowledged that it’s a constant challenge to keep up with everybody in the Pac-12 facilities arms race. Things, in general, are changing in college football.
“There’s no question about that. There’s big dollars at stake and big dollars being generated,” Whittingham said. “So I think universities look at it as an investment rather than expenditures. You’re investing in your program and hopefully you’ll be able to get some return.”
For Utah football, it’s a move from temporary trailers to what Rudy describes as a new furnished house. The transfer of boxes pretty much topped the to-do list for the moving guys. Coaches were told to have belongings ready to move by July 3 and players will begin reporting to the new facility on July 8.
“It’s going to be pretty good,” said Rudy, who added that the program’s tenure in the trailers wasn’t that bad and seemed like it went by quickly.
Whittingham has similar thoughts.
“It’s as good of a setup as we could have hoped for given the circumstances,” he said. “But we’re ready to move into the new facility. We’re eager to move into the new facility.”
No open house planned
Utah’s new football center will not be open to the general public in order “to allow for a conducive working environment for the coaches, staff and student-athletes.” University officials do, however, plan to make a video of the facility available soon and will post it on official department social media sites — utahutes.com, YouTube.com/utahathletics, facebook.com/uathletics and twitter.com/utahathletics.
Email: [email protected], Twitter: @DirkFacer