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University of Utah to study possibility of expanding Rice-Eccles Stadium

Snow coats Rice-Eccles Stadium on the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. More than 3 inches of snow fell in Salt Lake City according to the National Weather Service.
Snow coats Rice-Eccles Stadium on the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. More than 3 inches of snow fell in Salt Lake City according to the National Weather Service.
Nick Wagner, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — For a number of years, there’s been debate concerning whether the University of Utah should expand Rice-Eccles Stadium, with proponents saying the Ute fanbase is such that it could support an expansion and those against it arguing that additional seats would end up being a financial burden that couldn’t well be filled.

On Monday, plans were announced to explore the possibility of expanding, as the school will conduct a feasibility study of expanding the south end zone, which is the only area of the stadium that has been unchanged since 1998.

According to the announcement, the review will include a market analysis, cost estimates and funding models.

“Understanding the market, costs and feasibility will help us better prepare for the future of the stadium,” said university president David W. Pershing in a released statement. “There’s still much work to be done before taking steps toward renovation. We have to know if the market will support this kind of expansion.”

According to the announcement, a reconstruction could include replacement of locker rooms, equipment storage and media rooms, and space for medical services and hospitality opportunities. The study will consider the feasibility of additional suites, loges, fan interaction and concession areas, including connecting the east and west concourses.

The stadium currently seats 45,807, and every football game since the 2010 season opener has sold out. Of those 38 sellouts, 35 have overflowed into the standing-room sections. For the past seven years, Utah has had a 98-percent renewal rate for its football season tickets.

“It’s great to hear that the process has begun for an expansion to Rice-Eccles Stadium," said Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham in a released statement. "Facility improvements are critical for our recruiting and this will add to our ongoing efforts to have national-caliber facilities across the board and we are grateful to the administration for exploring the options.”

Rice-Eccles Stadium is currently the 10th-smallest in the Pac-12 from a seating capacity standpoint.