Stadium expansion is a topic in Provo, mostly among fans, despite only a few sellouts the past five seasons. That's partly because rival Utah announced in March that it will conduct a feasibility study for the expansion of 45,807-seat Rice-Eccles Stadium, which has sold out for 38 consecutive games, and the Cougars have always enjoyed the distinction of hosting the largest basketball and football crowds in the state.
Instead of making LES bigger, the focus is on making it better, athletic director Tom Holmoe said in March.
"Looking at it practically, right now we don't sell out," Holmoe said. "So it would be silly to put in another 20,000 more seats, because the 20,000 more seats you put in would be in the corners. … If you want to put an upper deck on, that would be great. I can picture an upper deck, but probably not [during] my administration. It would look great, though."
The stadium's capacity is now 63,470 after wheelchair accessible seating and upgraded club seating was added in 2011. The problem is that nearly half the seats — some 30,000 — are behind the end zones. Only about 32,000 seats — 16,000 on each side — are considered prime, sideline seats. The remainder are in the 42 luxury suites, also called loges, in the four-story press box.
"The big thing for us right now is not necessarily seats," Holmoe said. "It is hospitality. Those are the things that we are turning our attention to: hospitality and making it really a place where people come for social [activities] and hospitality. It used to be all about the game. Now, people, including our students, come to see things other than the game."
Added Duff Tittle, BYU's Associate Athletic Director for Communications: "We think the size of the stadium is at a pretty good number right now. What is really important in college football right now is the experience that fans get while they are there. And that's what we've been spending a lot of our time, energy and resources on, to make sure we are providing a great overall game-day experience."
Special Events Director Justin Durfey, who oversees the stadium and the Marriott Center, reiterated Holmoe's March comments last week. He is not aware of any major upgrades or facelifts for the football stadium planned for the future, but insists that many have happened recently that many fans may not be aware of.For instance, larger, state-of-the-art video walls and matrix ribbon boards were added to the north and sound end zones in 2012, and a television platform was added to the southwest corner for BYUtv's pre- and post-game broadcasts. A new air conditioning system was installed in the press box in 2015, enabling different areas to set their own desired temperatures. More concession choices have been made available, and more may be coming, including sushi, Durfey said. Whether caffeinated drinks will ever be sold at the MC or LES is a decision made "at a way higher level than me," the director said.
"The university has made the commitment to the football stadium, and we are doing our best to make what we have last, and make it better, so that people will be comfortable when they come to the games," Durfey said. "If you look at the whole sports and entertainment industry, the demand for any kind of upgraded experience continues to increase. … We are trying to give people an excuse to get away from their TV, get off the couch and come to the games, so we are doing everything we can to make it an enjoyable experience."
That includes a better experience with mobile devices.
Tittle said the wireless connectivity situation at the stadium continues to improve and will be even better this coming season. Last fall, Verizon Wireless installed a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) and this year T-Mobile and AT&T are expected to follow suit, although that may not happen until after the opener Aug. 26 against Portland State.
Tittle said BYU officials are "getting really close" to signing a deal with a Wi-Fi network to provide coverage in the entire stadium.
"Once you have a DAS and a Wi-Fi system, now you have a real rich user environment in your stadium, and people can get on their phones and do just about anything, because the phones can use both systems," Tittle said. "We are getting there. It will be a good thing."
Although artificial turf is being installed next door at the baseball stadium, neither Holmoe, Durfey nor Tittle see the fake stuff ever replacing the grass at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
"We like the grass we have right now," Tittle said. "We've had it for a few years, and once the roots took hold it has been great. It drains really well, and it works for us, so there has never been much talk about going to artificial turf in the football stadium."