The University of Utah has announced plans to expand the capacity of Rice-Eccles Stadium to over 51,000 as part of a project that will cost an estimated $80m (£63m/€71m).

The stadium’s current capacity is 45,807 and yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) announcement came after the university’s Board of Trustees approved a request to pursue bonding for the project.

The renovation work is conditional on financing approval and it is hoped work will be finished in time for the start of the 2021 college American football season.

University president Ruth V. Watkins said: “Today is an important first step in a multi-year process to expand and enhance Rice-Eccles Stadium, and I am thrilled that our community and supporters have come together to make it a reality.

“Our stadium serves as more than a home field for our football team. It can be a gathering place on our campus for many other events – connecting thousands of students, alumni, faculty, staff and fans to our institution and to one another. I am confident that Mark Harlan and his team will design and build a state-of-the-art facility that will serve our community well for years to come.”

The announcement comes after a feasibility study carried out last year found that there was strong community support and a market demand for the expansion. The university said construction costs will be covered primarily through fundraising, sponsorships and revenues generated by premium seating areas, with no state or taxpayer dollars to be used.

Rice-Eccles Stadium’s south end zone will be demolished and rebuilt as part of the plans. The south end zone was built in 1982 and was the only piece of the old Rice Stadium that remained when the current stadium opened on the same site back in 1998.

The plans will connect the east and west concourses on the south end, creating an enclosed bowl. The fan experience will also be enhanced through the addition of premium seating in luxury suites and loge boxes, along with club, ledge and rooftop seating.

Since 2010, the University of Utah’s American football team has played in front of 56 straight sellout crowds at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Its season ticket waiting list includes nearly 3,000 people, and the Utah ticket office has received more than 1,000 requests from current season ticket holders to add or upgrade seats.

Image: Populous/University of Utah