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Utah football: Utes unveil new state-of-the-art football center

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah athletics director Chris Hill wasn’t kidding when he said the Utes “are now competing with the biggest of the bigs” at the unveiling of the $32 million Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center.

Thursday’s unveiling and ribbon-cutting ceremony of the 152,211-square foot facility proved to be quite a grand opening as the university prepares for its third season of competition in the Pac-12.

“It’s great to have it. It was an absolute must for our program and it’s exactly what we needed in all areas — from the cafeteria to the training room to the meeting facilities to the locker rooms, everything,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “It just fits exactly what our needs were and it’s going to be great to recruit to. We’re excited to start recruiting to it this fall.”

The center, which will be used by all of the university’s sports teams and more than 400 student-athletes, is a state-of-the-art facility with a variety of amenities. Features include a large sports medicine area with hydrotherapy technology, a cafeteria with 250 seats, a 6,500-square foot football locker room, 47,000-square feet of meeting rooms, offices and team auditoriums, group study areas, a hydration station and a player lounge.

There’s also a Hall of Fame, a press room, a production studio, equipment storage and management, an area to get a haircut and an event plaza.

“It’s unbelievable. The locker room is unbelievable. The kitchen is unbelievable. The meeting room is a theatre,” said senior defensive end Trevor Reilly. “Imagine a mansion house with a theatre room. Every single position group has a theatre room for a meeting room. Before we had fold-up chairs and it almost seemed like an overhead projector. Now we’ve got the high-end stuff.”

Reilly, who grew up in Southern California, gave it a favorable comparison to a tour he took of the San Diego Chargers’ facility as a high school senior.

“This is better than their facility,” Reilly said. “I think we have almost a professional grade facility.”

Sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson is also a big fan of the new complex, which is adjoined by the Alex Smith Strength and Conditioning Center, and is adjacent to the football practice fields.

“It’s really nice. They put a lot of work into it,” he said. “They made sure they did everything right. It’s great having a cafeteria there, too, so we can have meals right after practice.”

Wilson added that the meeting rooms and locker rooms are also super nice.

“I’m really happy how it turned out,” said Wilson, who is convinced it will play a pivotal role in recruiting.

“I think that’s one of their checkmarks they want to look at — what kind of facilities places have,” he explained. “And we definitely built a really good one.”

Donors and the media were given a tour of the center before and after a short program on the lawn outside the building on Guardsman Way. Hill hosted the gathering that featured remarks by University of Utah president David W. Pershing, board of trustees chair Clark D. Ivory, Reilly, Whittingham and Spence Eccles.

After the program, Eccles cut the ceremonial red ribbon and the sign on the outside of the building was unveiled.


Twitter: @DirkFacer