Utah athletics: Utes hammering out details on capital projects and more

First Published      Last Updated Jun 02 2017 10:53 pm

Utah athletics » Capital improvement planning at forefront.

Chris Hill will stay busy for the next few weekends if he gets his way.

With Utah softball headed to NCAA Super Regionals, baseball trying to make an at-large bid for its second straight postseason and track athletes qualifying for nationals, he's glad there's still some competition to talk about.

"And hopefully it will stay that way for a little while longer," he said.

But this time of year is when Utah's athletic director and his department do a lot of work on offseason issues, particularly the many facilities projects Hill is trying to tackle. Many of them are in the early stages, but the Utes are trying to make progress on them as the summer begins.

The biggest and most scrutinized will be the Rice-Eccles Stadium expansion. A university panel to undergo a feasibility study met for the first time last week. Hill said that it mostly was to establish how Utah will direct its consultants, try to work on timelines and the project's sense of direction.

"I think all of us have a timeline we'd like to see for stadium expansion," he said. "Of course mine is on the shorter end."

Utah is taking bids for a new video scoreboard at the Huntsman Center, a project estimated to cost $4 million. The department would like to complete the project before basketball season begins in November.

An estimated $2 million of the project will be funded by Learfield, which will be Utah's new multimedia rights partner. A tentative agreement first announced in March still is being finalized by attorneys, Hill said, but both the Utes and Learfield are trying to move forward as much as they can to try to manage the department's sponsorships and partnerships.

"We anticipate that part to be done very soon," he said. "It's a 10-year agreement, and you want to make sure you get every detail down there. The better you do on the front end, easier it is on the back end."

One project that's somewhat on the backburner is the proposed $7.5 million baseball stadium. Utah has held several public meetings on it to hear out neighbors in the East Bench area who potentially would be affected, and the university still is hoping to cut a deal with Salt Lake City for a parcel of Sunnyside Park on which to build the field on Guardsman Way.

Hill said many steps still remain, including securing full funding, before anything can happen. But he hopes that a new stadium closer to campus could have the same influence on baseball that a softball stadium has had on the softball program. Utah hosted an NCAA regional for the first time last weekend.

"It was really cool," Hill said. "We thought back when we built it that maybe we should do it with the long shot idea in mind that we would be able to host. Coming into the league, we thought softball might be the toughest sport in which to make a mark. [Coach Amy Hogue] has done a phenomenal job."

Among the other items Utah is tackling: A university committee is establishing the process and requirements for taking on new Division I sports. Hill said the committee, originally meeting to consider the merits of men's lacrosse, has decided to make a universal set of guidelines for adding new sports, at the heart of which is not taking away resources for any current DI sport.

Lacrosse might be thrown in limbo by university president David Pershing stepping down from his post. Hill said he would want any added sport to be approved by "a sitting president" in addition to the university board of trustees. The club lacrosse program has said it hopes to be added to DI by the 2019 season.


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