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Courtesy University of Utah
A rendering of the expansion plans for the south end zone at University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium. The school announced the plans during a press conference Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah announced its stadium expansion plans at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Wednesday, revealing that the stadium capacity will increase from 45,807 to 51,444 and is expected to be completed prior to the 2021 football season.

The $80 million project will involve demolishing the south end zone, built in 1982, and rebuilding it while enclosing the bowl by connecting the east and west concourses on the south end. The south end zone was the only part of the old Rice Stadium that was retained when the current stadium opened in 1998.

The University of Utah board of trustees approved the project at its meeting on Tuesday.

"Just making it a reality is huge for our program," Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham said. "It’s going to be a great selling point for our recruits."

A few of the highlights from the south end expansion include:

  • The addition of 1,000 chair or bleacher seats, available for general purchase. Current season ticket holders will have the option of retaining their seats.
  • New premium seating in luxury suites and loge boxes, in addition to club, ledge and rooftop seating.
  • Upgraded locker rooms for both the home and visiting teams, as well as rooms for coaches and officials.
  • Rooms for athletic training, equipment, press operations and the Utah marching band.
  • Other plans include a kitchen, recruiting lounge, field-level club lounge and outdoor patio.

“In evaluating several options for Rice-Eccles, the expansion and enhancement of the south end of the stadium became the best option for Utah Athletics,” Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan said in a press release. “I want to thank President Watkins, the board of trustees and our generous supporters for putting momentum behind this massive project. It is a game-changer for Utah football, as well as for all of our athletics teams that will benefit from the anticipated new revenue. We will build this as a community and celebrate many victories in an enhanced game-day environment in the decades ahead.”

The construction cost will be covered primarily through fundraising, sponsorships and revenues generated through the new premium seating areas available in the south end zone, according to the school, and no state or taxpayer dollars will be used to fund the project.

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“Today is an important first step in a multi-year process to expand and enhance Rice-Eccles Stadium, and I am thrilled that our community and supporters have come together to make it a reality,” Utah President Ruth V. Watkins said in a press release. “Our stadium serves as more than a home field for our football team. It can be a gathering place on our campus for many other events — connecting thousands of students, alumni, faculty, staff and fans to our institution and to one another. I am confident that Mark Harlan and his team will design and build a state-of-the-art facility that will serve our community well for years to come.”

You can rewatch the press conference below.