Keep the cash in your wallet.
Make sure your phone is charged.
As the University of Utah arrives at its season-opening football game on Thursday evening, the Utes are going digital.
For the first time, all U. of U. tickets and parking passes have been distributed — and will be accepted on the day of a game — electronically. Rice-Eccles Stadium will also use cashless payments for concessions this season.
Utah officials point to a combination of factors for the changes: catching up with standard practices, addressing public health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and saving some cash along the way.
“Some of this is budgetary. You know the deficit we were facing last year, that didn’t go away magically,” David Woodbury, Utah’s director of ticket operations, said. “It helps relieve some budget where we would have spent some money on printing and shipping. Now, it’s digital, so that relieves the budget, allocated somewhere else.”
The deficit Woodbury speaks of is the $32 million hole Utah had to absorb during the last fiscal year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between printing and shipping costs associated with football, both basketball teams, gymnastics and other sports, Woodbury estimates the athletic department is saving roughly $100,000 by going digital.
The inner workings of athletic department finances aside, there is COVID-19 to consider, which makes going contactless even more sensible.
Utah officials understand that going out with the old, in with the new can sometimes be a difficult process, so they have been working toward making this change as smooth as possible for their season-ticket holders.
Digital tickets and parking
Tickets and parking passes will be scanned on the holder’s mobile phone.
Tickets and parking can be downloaded via Apple Wallet on iPhone or Google Pay on an Android phone. Downloading tickets and parking passes before arriving at Rice-Eccles on Thursday has been a constant point of emphasis in recent weeks. WiFi at the stadium can often be spotty, so athletic department officials have implored ticket holders to download to their phones before arriving on Thursday.
Step-by-step instructions can be found at utahtickets.com/managetickets.
Even in an increasingly digital world, there are still flip phones out there, and Utah officials acknowledge a segment of the fan base is less comfortable with technology. The Utah ticket office will print generic paper tickets for anyone wanting to stop by and show ID, although officials encourage fans to do that in the days before the game to avoid game-day delays.
Rice-Eccles Stadium bag policy
Congestion-wise getting into the stadium, keep in mind that Rice-Eccles still has a clear-bag policy. Only clear bags measuring 12x18 will be allowed inside. The introduction of no-bag lines at all major gates should help expedite entry.
When do gates open?
Gates will open two hours prior to kickoff.
The fact that the opener is a 5:30 p.m. kickoff on a weeknight when school is in session is not going to help congestion at entrance gates, nor is the fact that Rice-Eccles’ capacity is rising from 45,807 to 51,444 with the completion of the Ken Garff Red Zone.
“I think for the fans, it adds to the opening game stress,” Woodbury said of a Thursday opener, which Utah will play in for the 12th non-COVID season in a row. “If you’re playing on Saturday at 6, 7, 8, fans have all day to get ready, download their tickets. That Thursday, it makes it more stressful, and 5:30 is challenging, but what can we do? It’s when we’re playing, and we’ve done it before. 6, 6:30, whatever it is, you do the best you can and we’ll get everyone in the building.”
As of Monday afternoon, Woodbury said, there were 500 seats remaining for the season-opener, while indications are that demand will allow up to 2,000 standing-room-only tickets to be sold.
Paying for concessions
In an effort to reduce physical touchpoints, the stadium is going cashless. All sales will be completed using credit cards or mobile payments.
New ticketing app
Utah season tickets are available on the Utah database, but they are not available on the Ticketmaster app.
Per Woodbury, who has worked in ticketing at Utah in some capacity for 18 years, there is an app dedicated to Utah tickets in the works. That is being developed in-house, not by an outside developer. When that app is tested and ready to be rolled out remains a question mark.
“Hopefully, at some point this season, but for the opener, we’re just not quite there yet,” Woodbury said. “That’s some of the challenge right now.”