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The University of Utah's Board of Trustees has approved $13.5 million toward a video board and sound system intended to take Rice-Eccles Stadium's audiovisual experience from Stone Age to state of the art.
Athletic Director Chris Hill said a new video board has been high on his list of priorities for years, but the condition of the current video board made it "almost like an emergency thing now, because it's just falling apart."
Provided the Regents follow the Trustees' lead in a vote Friday, the project will go out to bid with a goal of completion in Summer 2016.
It's not known where the video display will rank among the nation's largest.
The structure's estimated dimensions, at 89 feet tall and 118 feet wide, yield a square footage of 10,502 that is larger than the current video boards at any college stadium except Auburn's Jordan Hare Stadium, at 10,830.
But a concept drawing shown to the Trustees included static, non-LED panels on the top and bottom of the board, and the left and right portions of the LED display sold to sponsors.
As shown in that drawing, the screen space devoted to game action is 5,452 square feet, said U. Communications Director Maria O'Mara. The video board at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is the conference's largest, at 6,000 square feet. Utah's current video board built by Daktronics and paid for in 2003 by a $1.6 million donation from Larry H. and Gail Miller is 38 feet wide by almost 23 feet tall, or about 850 square feet.
The new $8.6 million board would rest on four dedicated columns and would not affect undefined plans to rebuild the aging south end zone building or fill in the corners of the stadium bowl.
Hill said the U. preferred a traditional 16:9 aspect ratio so that the television picture doesn't require trimming making the U.'s video board taller than most.
Utah has also chosen to install a distributed sound system with a ring of speakers around the stadium, rather than a single extra-loud speaker on the scoreboard. Pricey, at $4.9 million, multiple speakers are expected to provide a clear sound within the stadium while muting the din in nearby neighborhoods.
Hill expects the sound system to outlast the video board, though he believes both are "pretty long-term."
"If you're going to invest in a sound system that is going to last a long time, why don't we go to what is becoming the best for fans and the best for people outside the stadium?" Hill said.
Hill said the $13.5 million bill will be split evenly between the Department of Athletics and Auxiliary Services. His department raised funds by tacking a $2 per game fee onto season tickets, as well as a $1 fee on basketball and gymnastics tickets.
It's the latest part of a push to improve the "fan experience," Hill said, as was this summer's installation of 88 new men's toilets and walking space at the north end of the stadium.
Hill also hopes to combat a national trend of shrinking youth audiences by improving cellular coverage, but "I've heard stadiums have invested a lot of money and it didn't work," he said.
Other athletics facility priorities include an academic center and an on-campus baseball stadium Utah currently rents Smith's Ballpark, home of the Salt Lake Bees.
Beyond that, possibly years off: costly renovations to the Huntsman Center concourses and Rice-Eccles Stadium, options for the latter hinted at in a 2015 concept obtained by The Tribune in June.