SBD/May 16, 2013/Facilities

Univ. Of Utah Athletic Facilities Will Undergo Extensive Upgrades, Expansion

Since the Univ. of Utah joined the Pac-12 in '11, there have been a number of changes to the athletic facilities, and "more changes, a lot more, are on the way," according to Dirk Facer of the DESERET NEWS. Last week, things "got rolling on a $24 million men’s and women’s basketball training and sports performance center when an architect was hired." The project is expected to "be complete by the spring of 2015 and will likely be done simultaneously with renovations to the Huntsman Center." Upgrades to the 15-year-old Dumke Gymnastics Center are "already under way and plans are being finalized for an outdoor tennis facility, a ski building and a throws area for track and field." Expansion of the Burbidge Academic Center also is "on the list of immediate plans." Other projects on the books include "renovating the Ute Natatorium, possible soccer field relocation or drainage upgrades to the current facility, a potential on-campus baseball stadium and an indoor driving range for the golf team." Utah AD Chris Hill said, "Almost every sport needs to upgrade some things. Most of them have the underpinnings of a good start or a good location." Hill is hopeful that the "major projects will be completed in the next two-to-three years -- including fundraising." He said, "The Pac-12 money has allowed us to essentially make the projects Pac-12 caliber rather than from our previous league, which has caused an increase in prices. But we’ve been able to budget some of that money so we could help fund these projects over the next 10 years. It’s the first time we’ve been in this position" (DESERET NEWS, 5/15). In Salt Lake City, Tony Jones notes the new football practice facility costs $32M, with "half of the total coming from fundraising efforts." Additional plans are "in place for a new outdoor tennis stadium adjacent to the Eccles indoor tennis facility" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 5/16).

MORE INTIMATE SETTING: The DESERET NEWS' Facer noted Hill outlined "several proposals that could come to fruition, including modernization of the Huntsman Center -- improved lighting and sound and a draping system that would make it a more multi-use facility." A $5M "draping set-up would make the 15,000-seat arena less cavernous for sporting events like volleyball and women’s basketball." It also could be used "for things like graduation or guest speakers." There currently are "no buildings on campus capable of holding crowds between Kingsbury Hall (1,200) and the Huntsman Center." The draping, which would "lead to removal of the familiar 'cloud' above the arena floor, would negate the need to build a smaller venue." The concourses at the Huntsman Center also could "undergo a facelift." One proposal is to "move all of the athletic department offices out of the arena and into the new basketball and sports performance facility." That would "allow for the current concourses to be expanded greatly" (DESERET NEWS, 5/15). Meanwhile, Facer noted "nothing is imminent" for the Rice-Eccles Stadium expansion. Hill said that there are "other projects that need to get done at this time." But initial drawings with "major changes to the south end of the stadium have already been created" (DESERET NEWS, 5/15).
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