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.
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".
Much like its basketball counterpart, Jon M. Huntsman Center, RES has pretty standard fare. There are plenty of places to find the classics (peanuts, nachos, popcorn, hot dogs, pizza, etc.) ranging from $3-$6. Grilled offerings are also typical: Ute Burgers, brats, chicken fingers and the like go for $5-$7. My recommendation from this group is a sausage sandwich from local favorite Colosimo's for $7.
If you're looking for something more "international," Mexican food is provided by Chile Verde, whose entrees range from $5 bean and cheese burritos to $10 burritos, enchiladas and "super nachos." Or, enjoy Japanese-style rice bowls from Yoshi's for $7.
Coke products start at $3 for bottles and bump up to $4 for the 32 oz fountain variety. Your sweet tooth can expect all the usual suspects, from kettle corn to sno-cones to cotton candy. Expect to pay anywhere from $3-$8 for these sweet treats.
Of the Beehive State's three FBS programs, Utah's game day atmosphere is easily the one that feels most "collegial." A large tailgate area is set up in the Guardsman Lot just Southeast of RES-a stark contrast to the "Plain Jane" setups at BYU and Utah State. Early-arriving fans also get to enjoy the Ute Walk, which begins near the Guardsman Lot about 2.5 hours before kickoff.
When you arrive at RES, you are bombarded with memories of the 2002 Games. Most noticeable are the distinct Olympic cauldron and the Hoberman Arch used at the downtown Olympic Medals Plaza. A museum dedicated to the 2002 Games is located in the Southwest corner for those who are interested.
Once inside, Olympic reminders fade and football takes center stage. Ever-present is the Pac-12 logo, as well as highlights of Utah's recent glory days. The most visible of these highlights are easily the banners on the Western exterior and panels flanking the South video board touting Utah's undefeated seasons and BCS bowl victories after the 2004 and 2008 seasons. As you walk the concourse, you'll find banners recognizing Utah's other bowl wins, together with Utes currently in the NFL.
Being nestled in the foothills helps amplify the crowd noise generated by The MUSS (Mighty Utah Student Section), though the views aren't quite as pristine as those at BYU or Utah State. Some Utah fans may disagree after Ute victories, however, when the Block U is lit up on a nearby hillside.
Having downtown Salt Lake City just down the hill is definitely a plus, but there are a handful of pre- and post-game options close to RES, as well.
Most notable among these is The Pie Pizzeria, a place I've noted on several of my reviews. The entire place screams "college town pizza joint" with memorabilia on the walls, people's names in chalk on bricks, and even an arcade game or two. The pizza isn't bad either, with plenty of specialties for those who have a hard time deciding on toppings. The Pie now also touts a spice pizza crust called "Apocalyp-dough" if you're looking for something different. Be prepared to spend anywhere from $10-$40 for pizza and drinks here.
If you want something a bit more elevated for that kind of money Market Street Broiler is a great choice. This converted firehouse specializes in fresh seafood, but there are a variety of ribs, burgers and steaks to enjoy, as well. Whatever you order, be sure to get some of their famous Clam Chowder on the side.
This part of the review begins and ends with The MUSS. Any time an entire student section has a name, it usually means they have the reputation to back it up. The MUSS does this in spades from Sections 38 and 39 in the Southeast corner of RES.
Sure, they're loud and stay standing for the entire game-lots of student sections can say that. It's clever subtleties that help set The MUSS apart. One signature MUSS move is the self-explanatory 3rd Down Jump, ignited by a sign-bearer running up and down the aisle. Another is their pride in inciting opponents' false starts. Each one commemorated with a sign bearing the number 5, much like baseball fans do with "K" signs.
The MUSS's appreciation for their Utes is absolutely reciprocal, too. Besides wearing helmet stickers with the MUSS logo on their helmets, Utah players frequently single out the MUSS for their contributions. It's a relationship that buoys the rest of the RES crowd, and has even inspired an alumni group called the FUSS (Former Utah Student Section).
When The MUSS is on its game, and the rest of the crowd is lifted by them, RES is an ear-splitting venue, no matter the fact it's the Pac-12's 2nd-smallest stadium. Couple that with the group's nationally televised triple-field storming against BYU this season, and The MUSS appears to be on its way to becoming a household name not just locally, but nationally as well.
Parking can be quite a challenge at RES. There's only one parking lot "attached" to the stadium, (on the West side) and it's reserved for donors, season ticket holders, as are several surrounding on-campus lots. I recommend using the TRAX light-rail system, which reaches most of the Salt Lake Valley, runs extra trains on gamedays and has a stop right at the foot of the RES parking lot. If you absolutely feel like parking, there are a handful of nearby on-campus options open to the public, but be prepared for a hilly walk. You can find a handy football parking map on the Utah athletics website.
The concourses are a bit narrower than you may like in spots, particularly in the stadium's North end, which butts up against both the road and the historic Nielsen Fieldhouse. Expect some bottlenecks here during busy times. Restrooms are decently-sized and well-maintained.
The move to the Pac-12 has brought with it the predictable climb in ticket prices. Season ticket holders continue to renew in droves at the higher prices, obviously excited by the boost in competition. Single game tickets start at $40 for standing room only, pretty steep for what is typically a frugal part of the country.
There are definitely parts of the experience that make the cost worthwhile (The MUSS, the Olympic memorials, etc.), but the deficiencies in food and drink options, as well as access difficulties, balance these out to result in an average ROI.
An extra two points for The MUSS. Simply put, it is a display of unity, noise, and mutual respect between fan and player that can be found few other places in college football. So what if they couldn't stop charging the field against BYU?
One point for "Crazy Lady," Utah alum and superfan Terri Jackson. Given her nickname by The MUSS, Jackson has done a frenetic dance to The Blue Brothers theme from her seat in the South end zone for more than a decade, much to the crowd's delight. Rumors that the athletic department was "evaluating" whether to discourage or replace her routine entering the 2012 season were met with a flood of fan resentment. Instead, Jackson's dance was merely moved from between the 3rd and 4th quarters to just before the end of halftime.
After decades of residing in BYU's shadow, Utah football has risen through the ranks to become part of FBS' "in-crowd" in the Pac-12. The fans, led by The MUSS, have flocked to the program accordingly, and stadium expansion is reportedly under consideration. If the Utes can continue the on-field success that propelled them to their current position, Rice-Eccles Stadium will continue to be a tough ticket-and one of the West's toughest places to play.
Us "Ute Fan Faithful' stay Loud & Proud in section N21
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.
Most narcissistic group of fans I have ever been around. Stadium is boring and small. The press box is really nice though.
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