The Impressive Legacy of Rice-Eccles Stadium
The University of Utah’s football stadium is relatively new; it’s turning twenty years old this September. Is spite of its youth, Rice-Eccles Stadium has managed to build up quite a history of hosting big events. These have put it on the map, so to speak, giving it greater national recognition than many of its peers. We decided to take a closer look at what this stadium represents for the community.
Utes Football and Holy Wars
The stadium’s primary role, of course, is to host home games for the University of Utah football team, the Utes. These games are the stuff of legends in Utah. That’s never more so than during the annual “Holy Wars” played against the Brigham Young University Cougars. When the Utes play against their arch-rivals, things get weird. One particularly memorable occasion was the 2012 Holy War, which also became known as “Fandemonium:”
With a three-point lead in hand, Utah had BYU at its own 8-yard line. Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson found Cody Hoffman on a Collie-esque 42-yard pass to convert a 4th-and-12, but the Cougars’ next pass attempt appeared to fall incomplete with no time remaining, sending the Utes crowd into a frenzy and onto the field.
One second remained, however, and the crowd cleared. A 51-yard field goal attempt was blocked, and the fans took the field again. A penalty was called because the spectators had interrupted the play in a live-ball situation, giving BYU another field goal attempt, this one from 36 yards. Riley Stephenson’s kick hit the upright, and the fans flooded the field for a third and final time.
Rice-Eccles Stadium has hosted the Holy Wars nine times so far, with the tenth coming this November. That game will also be the 99th Holy War since the beginning of the rivalry between the two universities.
From Utah to the World
The world probably knows the stadium best as the primary host venue for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Here, too, the stadium punched above its weight as a college football facility. The stadium’s size and quality are closely connected with the circumstances in Salt Lake City when the winning announcement was made:
When Salt Lake City was awarded the 2002 Winter Olympics in June 1995, it was obvious that Rice Stadium, the largest outdoor stadium in Salt Lake City, was not suitable to serve as the main stadium. The concrete, timber, and earth-fill facility had been built in 1927 and was showing its age. In 1996, U of U athletic director Chris Hill announced plans to renovate Rice Stadium into a new facility that would be up to Olympic standards. It was initially expected to take three years to completely overhaul the facility.
However, in 1997, Spencer Eccles, a Utah alumnus and chairman of Utah’s biggest bank, First Security Corporation (now part of Wells Fargo), announced that the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation would donate $10 million toward the project. In recognition of this gift, the university received permission from the Eccles family to add George Eccles’s name to the stadium alongside that of Robert L. Rice, who had funded the original renovation project to Rice Stadium in 1972.
The stadium went on to host the Olympics as planned. over 3.5 billion people around the world tuned in to watch the Opening Ceremonies taking place there. This was a particularly proud moment for all of Utah. The stadium later hosted major concerts and other sports teams. As currently configured, it can seat 45,807 spectators, with standing room for over two thousand more.
Rice-Eccles stadium is also special to us here at Boomsourcing, because it’s where we’ll be hosting Startup Santa for the third year in a row, together with Silicon Slopes, Salt Lake Chamber, and the United Way. This amazing charity drive collects books for underprivileged kids in Utah. Kids need books because having access to them closely correlates with their future success. Companies that collect at least 5 books for Startup Santa will earn the privilege of participating in a field-goal competition on the stadium’s famous field! Visit startupsanta.org to register your company today!