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The Utes’ season opener this year will be different from any other. Here’s why

The MUSS jumps around during first-half action in the Utah-Northern Illinois football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2019.
The MUSS jumps around during first-half action in the Utah-Northern Illinois football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. The 2021 season begins Thursday when Utah hosts Weber State.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

When the 24th-ranked Utah Utes take on the Weber State Wildcats Thursday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium in both teams’ 2021 season opener, there will be a number of things in place that will make the experience a different one for fans.

Here’s a rundown of changes that have been made at the stadium in Salt Lake City that will make Thursday different.

COVID-19 protocols

Fans will not be required to wear masks or prove COVID-19 vaccination status, although the university is “strongly encouraging” people to wear masks.

While things will be returning to normal from a capacity standpoint (the stadium officially sold out by Thursday morning — including 7,000 MUSS tickets — even as expansion took place to add seats to the south end zone), the pregame Ute Walk will not take place in 2021 and fans also will not be able to access the field after games.

Digital ticketing and parking

For the first time, all tickets and parking passes will be digital, as they will be scanned on ticket holders’ mobile devices. As such, fans are encouraged to have these items downloaded to the wallet on their devices and to arrive early to allow extra time for the process.

Related to parking, lots will open five hours before kickoff (12:30 p.m. MT in the case of Thursday’s contest), with the exception of the tailgate lots.

Cashless concessions

All concessions can only be purchased with a credit card as Rice-Eccles Stadium events become cashless. The university says mobile payment apps “will be implemented later in the season.”

The hope is that cashless concessions will reduce touchpoints and increase efficiency.

No bag lanes

The university will maintain its clear bag policy (Only clear bags, up to 12”x18”, will be allowed inside the stadium except for medical and diaper bags), but it will now have “no bag lanes” at all major gates to make entry faster for those who don’t have a bag.

Gates will open two hours prior to kickoff.

Postgame UTA bus service

Fare on Utah Transit Authority will continue to be free as in years past with the presentation of a game ticket, and now this season, there will be a bus service available after the contest to take fans from Rice-Eccles Stadium to the Courthouse TRAX station.