Just in case there was any doubt that University of Utah football fans will swarm back to Rice-Eccles Stadium this fall after last season’s COVID-impacted, no-fan five-game season, consider this.
On March 31, Utah announced it would host up to 6,500 fans for Saturday’s Red-White Game (Noon, Pac-12 Networks). Tickets went on sale the morning of April 2 and within two hours, the athletic department’s allotment was sold out, Utah deputy athletic director for external operations Scott Kull told The Salt Lake Tribune late last week.
The fact that the limited-capacity spring game sold out quickly appears to be an indication that the appetite for Utes football hasn’t lessened in the 16 months since fans were allowed inside Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Kull, AD Mark Harlan and the rest of the high-level decision-makers inside the athletic department, are anticipating being able to host a full Rice-Eccles for the Sept. 2 season-opener vs. Weber State.
“We are anticipating 100% capacity, but we do have plans in place should that change,” Kull said. “Right now, we are full speed ahead for 100% capacity.”
However the fan situation ultimately shakes out this fall, various ticket-related statistics that Kull provided to The Tribune indicate that a rabid, loyal season-ticket base is willing to return after selling out Rice-Eccles 64 straight times dating back to the 2010 season-opener vs. the University of Pittsburgh.
In late-February and early-March, season-ticket renewals went out with a deadline of May 5. As of late last week, roughly 60% of season-ticket accounts had opted to renew. If that number seems low, Kull was unconcerned, quickly noting that traditionally, many fans wait until the last minute to renew.
Around the same time renewal notices went out, the athletic department sent out a short survey to 7,100 season-ticket accounts asking “Are you planning on returning to Rice-Eccles Stadium this fall and using your seats?”
Eighty-seven percent of the 3,500 accounts that responded said they would come back to Rice-Eccles, 12% said they were unsure, and 1% said no.
“The 12% saying they’re unsure is all related to COVID,” Kull said. “Will the pandemic be under control? It’s all related to COVID. As people get vaccinated, as more things start to open as we’ve already seen, that will change. We are anticipating that we will renew at our normal rate.”
As a point of reference, last spring, with the pandemic in its infancy and no promise of a normal 2020 football season, the athletic department reported a 94% renewal rate, plus a waiting list of roughly 3,000.
If Utah wants to keep the sellout streak humming this fall, there is the matter of the capacity going from 45,807 to 51,444 once construction of the Ken Garff Performance Zone is complete. Harlan said multiple times this year that the south end zone project is headed for a July completion.
Kull indicated late-July is currently the target, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Garff family and some donors lined up for mid-August.
There are five different premium seating options within the Ken Garff Performance Zone, and getting them all sold has been swift. Kull says fourteen suites, 336 ledge seats, 338 club seats, 40 four-person loge boxes and four 10-person loge boxes are all sold out. All four of those premium sections have capital gifts attached to them ranging from $6,000 for the club seats to $250,000 for the suites.
Premium terrace seating was 45% gone as of late last week and is on pace to be 100% gone by August, which puts Rice-Eccles on pace to again be sold out.