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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah is one that Goldilocks might call “just right.” It is in that sweet spot between not too big and not too small – big enough that it doesn’t feel like a high school game, but small enough that getting in and out isn’t a chore, like at Michigan or Nebraska.
More importantly, it is in a Power 5 conference. There are lots of mid-size stadiums around the country, but most are in the MAC, Sun Belt, or the like – not so with Utah. So when you visit RES, you can be assured of a high-power matchup with quality teams such as Pac-12 powers like Oregon or USC.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
At RES, you will find all of the standard fare at pretty reasonable prices; most items range from $4 to $7, including chicken tenders, burgers, Philly and BBQ sandwiches, hot dogs, and fries. For those with a sweet tooth, RES offers ice cream and churros. A full menu of stadium fare can be found in the online fan guide, which has a listing of which selections are available at which concession stands, so bring your smartphone with you and you'll be able to find exactly what you're looking for.
Beverages at RES include Coke products and water - no alcohol is permitted in the stadium, legally anyway, probably because the stadium is on campus. One nice thing about RES though is that they let you bring bottled water from home, limited to one factory-sealed container of one liter or less per person. This is actually becoming more common in stadiums across the country, especially in the south, due to health concerns related to overheating and dehydration.
Simply put, RES is a great place to watch a football game, and there is plenty of excitement both inside and outside the stadium, including the Ute Walk and Olympic Cauldron Park. Fans who arrive at least 2 ½ hours early can watch the marching band lead the team down 500 South to the stadium, accompanied by the Spirit Team, a group of cheerleaders who hand out t-shirts and other souvenirs to their adoring fans during the walk.
Olympic Cauldron Park is located directly south of the stadium, and houses the 2002 Olympic museum, in addition to the cauldron used in those games. There is concern about the future of the park, however, given the school's plans to expand the stadium at some point. Nevertheless, RES provides a fun atmosphere in a beautiful setting, and Utah is a program that has been on the rise even before the school joined the Pac-12, thanks in part to former coach Urban Meyer. Kyle Whittingham has done a phenomenal job since taking the reins, and has managed to keep Utah competitive in a much tougher league.
The scenery around RES is stunning, especially in the daytime, when the mountains are at their most majestic (and most visible). The stadium is also located on campus, so there are a number of fraternity and sorority houses near the stadium, which is a fabulous plus on game days and adds to the atmosphere. As you walk to the stadium, you can't help but soak up the excitement from these students as they gear up for the contest.
In addition, there are plenty of great restaurants and bars near the stadium. Big Ed's is probably the most popular - about four or five blocks from the stadium; it is the classic college dive bar with fabulous, cheap food, including breakfast items. The Gawd Awful should be at the top of your list. This delectable dish is a mess of hash browns loaded with chili, cheese, and onions, all topped with a fried egg.
Knowledgeable and enthusiastic, the fans are a big factor in making this a great college football venue, especially the student section. Monikered the MUSS (Mighty Utah Student Section), they are loud, proud, and geared up with bright red shirts and banners a-flying. Founded in 2002, the MUSS is the university's student fan club for football and other sports, and you actually have to register to join. In 2004, the MUSS was named one of the top five student sections in the country by ESPN, and the current group is not far from capturing that honor again. Outside the student section, the fans are not quite so riled up, but equally knowledgeable, and are not at all shy about screaming wildly (or booing mournfully) as the occasion requires. This is precisely why Utah broke five football attendance records during the 2014 season alone.
Since it is on campus, RES is difficult to get to, as many of the nearby roads are closed off, or dead-end at other campus buildings, and many of the parking lots are restricted to students and faculty. Traffic after the game is also pretty intense, and it could take you a while to get away. You may be better off parking further away and walking in so you can avoid some of it.
Pedestrian traffic inside the stadium is much easier to manage; the concourse is wider than most and there are plenty of entrances. Given the relatively smaller crowd compared to some venues, bathrooms are easy to get to, and lines inside the stadium are not overly long, since there are multiple refreshment carts and concession stands scattered around inside.
If you buy directly from the school, tickets will run upwards of $50 or more, depending on the game. Third party vendors are not much better, since many of the games are marquee match-ups. However, parking is only $10, and food is not overly expensive, so that makes up for the ticket price, All in all, visiting RES is definitely a worthwhile experience for the money given the great atmosphere and all of the extras.
The first extra point goes for Rice-Eccles Stadium being nestled in the Rockies; not many stadiums can make this claim and provide such a glorious backdrop.
Another point for hosting the Olympics, and having the park to prove it - this will give your trip a nice bit of historical significance.
A third point for the giant U on the mountain, which is certainly worth capturing on film. As an added bonus, when Utah wins the U is lit up in red, so even if you don't love the Utes you just might want to root for them anyway, because it is an awesome sight to behold.
Finally, the absolute, completely best thing about seeing a game at RES is that they let you go on the field after the game! How cool is that? It is a totally awesome experience, and definitely makes the trip worthwhile, so it gets two points. And I don't mean only when they beat BYU or a top 10 team - you can do that after every game. It is an absolute blast, and a definite must; take a selfie on the logo or throw a ball around with your kids or your buddy on a real field. Going out onto the field is certainly a rarity in the world of college football today, and should be on any fan's bucket list.
Visiting RES is well worth the trip, given the historic significance, the wonderful fan base, the vibrant atmosphere, the mountain scenery, and the opportunity to experience things like going on the field at the end of the game. This stadium will NOT disappoint.
Member Review by dmortimer on Sep 22, 2012
Not many venues in the United States can claim the title of “Olympic Stadium.” One member of that exclusive club is Rice-Eccles Stadium, home of Utah Utes football, which hosted the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
The Utes have played on the site where RES sits since 1927, when the space was called “Ute Stadium.” The space opened under its current name in 1998 after a massive off-season renovation in preparation for the Olympics.
It served as Real Salt Lake’s home from the club’s inception in 2005 until late 2008, when Rio Tinto Stadium opened. RES has also hosted a U.S. World Cup qualifier in 2005 and has been the longtime host of Utah high school football championship games.
Member Review by UteFanFaithful on Sep 27, 2012
Us "Ute Fan Faithful' stay Loud & Proud in section N21
Member Review by thejewishputz on Oct 10, 2012
The atmosphere is incredible. The MUSS and the Adult version of the MUSS (North Endzone) are two of the loudest sections in college football, true diehard fans who love to have fun. Now with TRAX and expanded parking it is quite easy to get to RES, getting out is a bit tougher.
I wish the food was a bit better and like I said avoid parking inside most of the university if you want to drive out. TRAX is a total game-changer as well.
Member Review by MBN on Jan 28, 2013
Most narcissistic group of fans I have ever been around. Stadium is boring and small. The press box is really nice though.
Member Review by Nick Thomas on Jul 14, 2013
Rice-Eccles is obviously not the biggest or fanciest college football stadium in the country or even the west. But when it lacks in size, it makes up with huge heaps of charm.
The food from the stalls is mediocre at best but it's made up by having local businesses set up shop in the large open area near the Olympic torch.
There isn't a bad seat in the, nearly always packed full, house and the fans are very passionate. Utah fans pride themselves on sticking through the good times as well as the bad.
Parking isn't great but that's the price you pay having a stadium so close to downtown. Fortunately city trains run to the stadium from all over the downtown area.
Member Review by ktmiami08 on Oct 22, 2013
My first PAC-12 experience was a stop at Rice-Eccles Stadium for the 10/3/2013 (Thursday) night game against 12th ranked UCLA.
Reading the SJ review, I have to agree that the fans are some of the most passionate fans I have encountered in college football. Maybe not before the game (tailgating scene is nothing to write home about- few students live on campus so that limits the college partying as well), but inside the stadium and throughout the game, the fans were second to none!
"The Pie" is definitely the popular place before the game. Families with children and groups of college students alike were all enjoying a slice in the crowded basement dining room.
Again the neighborhood and atmosphere are nothing to write home about- the coolest part is the mountain view you can get if you're sitting high enough on the press-box side of the stadium.
The stadium is easily accessible on the lightrail that goes downtown or up the hill to the main campus. With your U of U athletic ticket you get a free ride. I recommend staying at the University Guest House on campus to avoid the downtown congestion.
1320 E 200 S
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
210 University St
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
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