Significant changes are coming to one of the most prominent structures on the University of Utah campus.
Rice-Eccles Stadium, home of Ute football as well as numerous other campus and community events each year, is set to undergo an $80 million expansion and renovation. The project is being funded in part by a lead gift of $17.5 million from the Ken Garff family, which is the largest donation in the history of Utah Athletics.
“We are incredibly grateful for the continuing generosity of the Garff family,” says U President Ruth V. Watkins. “This extraordinary gift will dramatically improve the fan experience at Rice-Eccles Stadium during football games and many other events. My sincere thank you to Robert and Kathi Garff, John and Amy Garff, and Matt and Nicole Garff for making this gift possible.”
“The success of our student-athletes and our department relies on the extraordinary generosity of our supporters, and the Garff family has been instrumental in elevating Utah Athletics to unimaginable heights,” says Director of Athletics Mark Harlan. “This transformational commitment from the Garffs will impact thousands of student-athletes, staff, coaches, and fans for years to come, and we are forever grateful for their kindness and support of our university.”
The Garff family’s donation will help fund construction of the Ken Garff Performance Zone in the south end zone. The current structure, built in 1982, was the only part of old Rice Stadium retained when the current stadium opened on the same grounds in 1998.
Scheduled to be completed in time for the 2021 football season, the project will enclose the stadium bowl by connecting the east and west concourses on the south end. Seating capacity will increase from 45,807 to 51,444. The upgrades will also enhance the fan experience by adding premium seating in luxury suites and loge boxes, as well as club, ledge, and rooftop seating.
The dilapidated locker and meeting rooms below the current south end zone stands will be replaced and modernized, and new spaces will be created for coaches, officials, athletic training, equipment, press operations, and the band. A kitchen, recruiting lounge, field-level club lounge, and outdoor patio are also in the plans. The new 7,800-square-foot south end zone videoboard, which was installed prior to the 2016 season, will remain in place.
The university announced a fundraising campaign for the stadium project last November after a feasibility study demonstrated strong community support and market demand for an expansion and renovation of Rice- Eccles Stadium. To date, donors have pledged $32 million of the $35 million sought in philanthropic gifts. The remaining $45 million will be generated through various new revenue sources associated with the project. No state or taxpayer dollars will be used.
“The University of Utah is the alma mater for several generations of the Garff family, so it is an institution near and dear to our hearts,” said Robert Garff, chairman of Ken Garff Automotive. “We at Ken Garff believe the greatest asset in a community is the education of our youth. This partnership with the University of Utah is our way to encourage a legacy of opportunity for decades to come as two aspirational brands come together to improve the community for future generations.”
“Updating the south end zone is the last piece in making Rice-Eccles Stadium truly one of the best college football environments in the country,” said Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham. “We are especially grateful that a family enterprise like Ken Garff, whose roots are in Salt Lake City, has made such a significant contribution to our Utah football family.”
The U football team has played in front of 57-straight sellout crowds in Rice-Eccles Stadium, dating back to its 2010 season opener. The season ticket waiting list includes nearly 3,000 people, and the Utah ticket office has received more than 1,000 requests from current season ticket holders to add or upgrade seats. Included in the expansion is the addition of 1,000 chair or bleacher seats, which will be available for general purchase in the south end zone. All current season ticket holders will have the option to keep their seats.