The next step in the elevation of Utah Athletics is here.
The University of Utah, along with the Ken Garff Family, officially cut the ribbon on the $80 million Ken Garff Red Zone at Rice-Eccles Stadium the morning of Aug. 12. Under a clear blue sky and bright sunshine, the event served as the official unveiling of the stadium expansion that encloses the south end of Rice-Eccles Stadium, provides brand-new premium seating experiences, team locker room and game-day amenities, while increasing the seating capacity to 51,444.
University of Utah Interim President Michael L. Good, incoming President Taylor Randall, Athletics Director Mark Harlan and Head Football Coach Kyle Whittingham participated in the ceremonial ribbon-cutting alongside members of the Ken Garff family. Also in attendance were members of the Rice and Eccles families.
“Today is an historic day, not only for the athletics department and our student-athletes but certainly for this university,” Harlan said. “This is an amazing project. It seems like a short two-and-a-half years ago when we went through the approval process, and now we are here. They say when you build it, they will come. But they have already been coming to Rice-Eccles Stadium. We have been sold out for every game since 2010. This allows 4,500 more people to join the party.”
A crowd of nearly 400 invited guests was seated on the field, facing the glistening new Ken Garff Red Zone at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Kathi Garff spoke on behalf of the Garff Family and was joined on the stage by sons John and Matt.
“The Ken Garff Red Zone will not only benefit our football program, but it will benefit more than 500 student-athletes who are annually a part of the greater University athletics family,” Kathi Garff said. “My husband Bob had a dream that the Ken Garff Red Zone could attract and unite the finest faculty, build and retain the most gifted athletes, and attract and develop the greatest students. He also had a dream that the Ken Garff Red Zone could be a gathering place to encourage the faculty, the business community, families and students to be able to enjoy these facilities year-round.”
The Garff family’s $21.5 million donation served as the lead gift for the project and stands as the largest single donation in Utah Athletics history.
“I want to share my congratulations and express my gratitude to Kathi and the entire Garff family for this incredible new facility,” Good said. “I know the Ken Garff Red Zone will advance our entire university.”
The expansion is a game-changing addition for the University of Utah, the Athletics Department and the Utah Football program to improve both the student-athlete and fan experience. The improvements include major enhancements to the game-day environment for fans as well as new locker rooms, sports medicine facilities and other football operations spaces that will also boost recruiting efforts.
“I want to thank Mark Harlan and his team, and the team at Layton Construction,” Randall said. “They put up this place in a pandemic. Think about the supply-chain issues, the cost issues we’ve had, and the need to preserve people’s health. Thank you to all of them. What you are staring at with this new facility is $41 million in donations. You’re staring at an additional $10 million in ticket sales. This will help our football program to thrive and it will become even more elite than it is now.”
The addition of both premium and non-premium seating includes suite, loge box, ledge, club and premium terrace seating, and an increased number of bench seats.
The Layton Field Club and Diglisic Lounge complement the premium spaces in the Ken Garff Red Zone at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
An expert team of planners, designers and contractors including Populous, VCBO Architecture and Layton Construction are completing final touches on the project, which will host its first game when Utah takes on Weber State to open the 2021 football season on Sept. 2.
“This is a place of community, a place where, when the Utes are up by 75, you’d still want to be there and you wouldn’t want to go home early,” Randall added. “And this is that place. This is a true differentiator for our football program.”