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Washington Huskies benefit from NFL venue

Published November 10, 2012 11:58 pm

College football • Utes may be eyeing stadium expansion of their own.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Washington Huskies have the luxury of playing in one of the NFL's best venues, CenturyLink Field, while their stadium is being renovated this year.

Cal did the same thing last year, playing at AT&T Park while its Memorial Stadium underwent a 21-month renovation.

So what would the Utah Utes do if they ever expanded their stadium in the future? Play at East High? Squeeze into a corner of Spring Mobile Ballpark somehow? Or, even worse, borrow that field from the team down south for a few games?

Don't sweat, Utah fans, particularly that last unimaginable scenario. Utah athletic director Chris Hill said if the Utes do decide to expand Rice-Eccles in the future, the work would be completed without affecting the home schedule.

"That shouldn't be a concern," Hill said. "We're confident anything could get done without disrupting games."

Any expansion would not be as extensive as the one that took place in 1997, when construction on Rice-Eccles Stadium started during the season and continued through the summer as everything but the south end zone bleachers were demolished.

That $50 million project was completed in time for the 1998 season and expanded the seating from 32,500 to 45,017 capacity.

Hill says expanding the stadium isn't a priority, with projects to build new outdoor tennis courts, a basketball practice facility, softball complex and swimming pool remaining at the top of his wish list.

However, a report presented to Utah president David Pershing by a committee of school officials noted the stadium would be expanded by 11,000 seats at a cost of $68 million by 2022 as part of a possible bid for the 2022 Olympics.

For now, Hill is happy with the size of Utah's stadium, noting others such as Cal (71, 799 to 63,186), Stanford (85,500 to 50,000) and Washington (72,500 to 71,900) are all dropping in size.

The Utes have sold out their last 17 home games.

"We think it is a good size," he said. "so many teams get carried away with what others do and they do, but we have to do what is right for us," he said. "A lot of times our pro players run into others who have played at Rice-Eccles and they are shocked at the atmosphere there."

Hill said the Utes' current major project, a $30 million new football facility, is on schedule to be completed in July.

The 80,000-square-foot, two-level building will boast a new sports medicine room, multipurpose dining hall, team lockers, equipment rooms, players' lounge and auditorium.

When Husky Stadium opens for the 2013 season, at a cost of $260 million, it will feature new individual seats instead of bleachers, a new press box, new suite seating and additional amenities such as additional concessions stands, more bathrooms and an improved video and audio system.