Utah moving to next phase of Rice Eccles Stadium renovation

Ryan Kostecka

The next great chapter in Utah athletics has taken another step forward.

The construction for the new Ken Garff Performance Zone, which will be placed at the south end of Rice-Eccles Stadium, began in December of 2019 and is scheduled to be completed and open ahead of the 2021 football season.

But Monday marked a big time milestone in the process — as demolition began on the stands in the south endzone. The construction began eight months ago, which worked at fortifying the structure of the stadium so that when the demolition finished and the expansion began, it would add nearly 5,000 extra seats to the stadium's capacity.

The Spence Clark Football Center previously occupied the space at the south endzone, but the 40-year old building began to crumble on Monday. The center housed both the home and visiting locker rooms, as well as the media center for reporters to speak with coaches and players following the games.

According to Jared Adamson, Layton construction manager for the project, the demolition portion of the project will take about five weeks to complete.

"We have a high-reach excavator that has a 'muncher' on it," Adamson explained. "Rather than imploding the building, this is much safer and it allows us to have smaller pieces of concrete to haul away. We have two excavators with the munchers on them, and they'll work from the west to the east."

While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused mayhem throughout the sports world in America, the project has actually been moved up in schedule due to the pandemic. The demolition was set to take place in December following the conclusion of the 2020 season but with no fall season set to take place, the project is now four months ahead of schedule.

According to the release by Utah athletics...

"The Spence Clark Football Center opened in 1982 as part of a major remodeling of the former Rice Stadium. The field was lowered at that time by 9 feet and more seats were added on the sidelines and in the south end zone. The new building was named in recognition of a $1 million gift made by local businessman Spence Clark, and provided new locker rooms, a stadium club room and a band room, as well as the structure for the south end zone seating."

The new performance zone will house locker rooms for both the Utes and the visiting teams, official locker rooms, sports medicine facilities and multiple other spaces that will be specifically dedicated to the game-day personnel for a smoother day of production.

The additional seating will allow Rice Eccles to go from a capacity of 45,087 to 51,444, both of which will feature premium and non-premium seating. The Performance Zone will also include suite, loge box, ledge and club seating, as well as the Field Level Club, Stadium Club and a Rooftop Terrace.

This will bring in new revenue for the athletic department as a whole, which will be beneficial to all sports in the Utah community.

After a $17.5 million donation from Bob Garff, who passed away on Sunday due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the performance zone really began to take shape — and will cost a grand total of $80 million.

While no changes in seating capacity are expected for the 2020 season during construction, the 2021 season will see an influx of "suite, loge box, ledge, club, rooftop terrace and bench seating," according to the Utah athletics website.

One of the biggest questions regarding the placement of the new performance zone is what will happen to the Olympic Cauldron. According to the website, "the Olympic Cauldron will be relocated to a more accessible location just north of the Rice-Eccles Stadium ticket office, outside the stadium’s fence line, where it will be more accessible year-round."

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