Utah Red Rocks unveil new gymnastics facility upgrades

A process eight years in the making is finally ready for Utah gymnastics’ coaches and athletes.

The Utah Red Rocks gymnasts are widely known for their gravity-defying jumps, twists and flips. But little did fans know they have an eye for design as well.

The team unveiled the expansion to the Dumke Gymnastics Facility on Thursday. The space features new locker rooms, a lounge area, displays of the team’s winning legacy over the last five decades and coaches’ offices.

“We’ve been waiting for it,” Grace McCallum said. “It’s just everything we’ve imagined and more.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The new Utes Dumke Gymnastics Center, on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023.

It also includes touches of design ideas led by fifth-year seniors Maile O’Keefe, Jaedyn Rucker and Abby Paulson.

“They co-designed those lockers, they picked out the tiles, they picked out the backsplash, they picked out the refrigerator, they picked out the pebbles that we put out in the Zen garden,” coach Tom Farden said. “They did all of that.”

The player lockers are one of the highlights of the facility’s upgrades. They feature door handles that come together in the shape of a U, and a window that allows one to see a gymnast’s sparkly wardrobe above their nameplate.

O’Keefe said she’s most excited about using the locker room.

“I think it’s beautiful,” O’Keefe said about 45 minutes before the team officially moved into the space.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Abby Brenner poses by her name, during a VIP tour the new Utes Dumke Gymnastics Center, on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023.

O’Keefe said gymnasts have been choosing elements of the new facility since she was a freshman in 2020. Plans for the university to upgrade the space started as far back as eight years ago, Farden said.

McCallum said the design inspiration was “very Red Rock-themed,” and that team wanted the entire facility to flow from the gym all the way to the second floor. She mentioned the new lounge as a space gymnasts felt excited about utilizing for naps, schoolwork, putting on makeup, and playing on a future ping pong table.

“We’re all pretty excited about it,” McCallum said. “We will be spending a lot of our time here.”

The upgrades were fully funded by donors and fans of the program. It cost a total of $4.6 million, per the university.

“The only thing that I can do or say to sum up our amazing donors is you guys truly are a perfect 10,” Farden said before cutting the ribbon to the upgraded facility. “You guys have propelled us with a tailwind unlike any other tailwind in women’s athletics ever before.”

Elsewhere in the facility are displayed some of the biggest names in Red Rocks history — from a wall of All-Americans to Olympians like Crystal Gilmore and MyKayla Skinner. There is also a numbers display down a hallway that shows how many championships and postseason appearances the program has earned over the years.

“Being a part of this program is about dreaming big,” deputy athletics director Charmelle Green said. “It’s about realizing and living your potential. It is about being a part of something that is bigger than yourself. It is about pursuing excellence and everything that you do. It is about respecting the past, seizing the opportunity now and leaving a legacy that ensures a promising and bright future.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah president Taylor Randall speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Utes Dumke Gymnastics Center, on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023.

Farden said that when he was giving his speech, he had trouble finding the words to express his feelings about what the fully realized facility means to him. But now that the eight-year process is finally completed, he’s come away with a lesson that patience is worth it.

“Like an ice sculpture,” Farden said. “If you chip too fast, probably going to crack. If you chip too slow, it’s probably going to melt. So you just have to have that appropriate amount of chipping away and chipping away and chipping away and now the facility is where it’s at right now. So, to me, it means the world.”