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Monson: Study ... this! Utah football deserves a greater, grander stadium

Published March 28, 2017 3:24 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So the University of Utah is studying whether to expand and enhance its stadium, the south end in particular.

Save the study, save the cost of the study.

Have a little faith. Have a little self-respect. Study what Utah football already has done and become. And just build the darn thing. If you continue to put resources into the program, if you continue to win, the fans will come, like they do, and come in even bigger numbers, spending even more money.

Don't announce a feasibility study. Don't announce that the issue is being looked into, as school president David Pershing stated: "Understanding the market, costs and feasibility will help us better prepare for the future of the stadium. There's still much work to be done before taking steps toward renovation."

And then this part.

"We have to know if the market will support this kind of expansion."

Is that a threat? Is that a warning? Is that a call to action? Is that an incentive for fans to commit their loyalty, their partisanship, their funding? Is that fear? Is that political? Is that an exercise in CYA?

Beats me.

It seems strange, though, that the school wouldn't simply and quietly have done the study, if it thought it had to, then announced the improvements or canceled them, letting Rice-Eccles remain as is.

The same release that announced the study informed everyone that every Utah home game since 2010 not just has been sold out, but that 35 of those 38 sellouts have spilled over into the SRO areas. And not just that, but Utah has had a 98-percent renewal of season tickets over the past seven years.

All right, already.

Just find the money and upgrade that last section of the stadium and be done with it. Quit fiddle-faddling around. Forty-five thousand seats is not enough. Upgrade and expand the seating, improve hospitality opportunities, add suites and loges, create space for medical services, for equipment storage, for media rooms, add concession stands and lounging areas for fans, connect the east and west concourses. And for the love of all that is holy, replace those cramped and antiquated locker rooms … 1975 called. It wants them back.

Make Rice-Eccles whole, what it should be.

Reason No. 1 — the football program deserves it.

Reason No. 2 — the fans of the football program deserve it.

Those south stands, with their attendant facilities, are ramshackle. They're low-budget. They represent what Utah football used to be when Wyoming and Colorado State and New Mexico were beating it.

That was then. This is now.

And now Utah football is big time. It's Pac-12. It's solid Pac-12, not fringe Pac-12. It's worthy and it belongs. It is worthy of a palace, it belongs in a football cathedral. RES, on the whole, is a nice place — albeit too small — to watch Utah play USC and UCLA and Oregon and Washington and Arizona State. Its setting is spectacular, one of college football's best. It would be top notch … except for its size and that barnacle attached at the south end. That mess should be shaved off and refinished, made resplendent.

As is, the stadium looks like a Bugatti pulling a hay wagon.

Give Utah football a building that is as good as the Utes are.

Give Utah football a home of which to be proud.

Give Utah, the school, a marketing-tool of a stadium at the foot of the Wasatch that boosters and national television audiences can look at, identify with, and wonder at, pulling up school applications and pulling out checkbooks as they watch the Utes win.

And the Utes are winning much more than they are losing. In the Pac-12, they are playing on one of the game's grandest stages. Their home should fit the occasion. With the state's ever-expanding population, more and more fans will want to follow and back the program and pay to watch in person, to have a great fan experience — as long as the best of the fan experiences — winning — continues.

Does the administration believe that winning will continue? That's the real question here. Does it believe in the Utes? Does it believe in the school? Does it believe the fans will support the Utes? Does it believe the product will go on drawing? Does it believe the football fan base will go on growing? If it does, finish the freaking stadium the way it should be finished.

Study, my foot.

Quit thinking like a little provincial outfit in the bushes of some backwater.

Quit thinking like you're still in the Mountain West.

Think big, act big, be big — and give Kyle Whittingham the spacious house his teams have earned.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM. Twitter: @GordonMonson.






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