For me, it’s giving the fans what they want and keeping our atmosphere. Those are two things that are really important. —Chris Hill on Rice-Eccles Stadium expansion
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah athletics director Dr. Chris Hill discussed a variety of topics at a “media roundtable” Wednesday afternoon in the Huntsman Center.
Hill met with reporters for more than an hour in a casual setting.
Renovations and the expansion of Rice-Eccles Stadium led things off.
“For me, it’s giving the fans what they want and keeping our atmosphere,” Hill said. “Those are two things that are really important.”
Such plans, he acknowledged, encompass a lot of stuff — including hospitality opportunities that never existed before and additional rest rooms.
Improved locker rooms and football operations areas are also priorities.
“We want to do it all,” Hill said. “
By closing in the unattached sides on the south end of the 45,807-seat stadium, expansion is likely — even if the end zone faces possible seating alterations such as suites and/or lodges.
“I want to just leave everything open so we make a decision that’s long-term, that works,” Hill said.
A feasibility study commissioned by the university facilities committee, which will examine costs and other variables, has yet to be awarded. Hill, though, expects it to be done soon.
Ticket sales and donations will be used to finance the stadium project. Hill said no state or university funds will be used.
Basketball and football scheduling was also discussed. Hill acknowledged there are challenges. In basketball, the philosophy is to have at least five top-100 RPI teams in non-conference play. As far as football is concerned, the A, B and C approach may be altered to A, A-minus and C — adding to the degree of difficulty.
Playing games at neutral sites is something Hill would like to avoid unless it's a gigantic national name that they can’t get to Salt Lake City He doesn’t want to take good games away from season ticket-holders and admits to turning down $1.5 million games in the past.
“I’ve turned down several of those because I didn’t think it was best for us,” Hill said. “So I have no problem doing that.”
As far as basketball scheduling, specifically in 2016-17, Hill admits that they might have been two games off in terms of getting into the NCAA Tournament. Hill said he probably should have been more aggressive with that.
Hill declined to discuss in-state issues, putting himself on a self-imposed “gag order” on such matters at the meeting. Hill explained that some of his comments in the past haven’t been his finest moments.
“I just want to make sure people know I have respect for the in-state situation,” Hill said. “But all kidding aside, it just seems like I say something (and) it may be taken wrong by either our fans or somebody else’s fans.”
Hill added that he just wanted to give himself a break.
The biggest announcement from the roundtable was the installation of a new $4 million scoreboard and video display in the Huntsman Center by next basketball season. Half of the cost will come from Utah’s new multimedia partner Learfield. The university auxiliary services department, which oversees the building, is expected to contribute as well.