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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Jon M Huntsman Center – Utah Utes

Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29

Jon M. Huntsman Center 1825 E. South Campus Dr Salt Lake City, UT 84112

Year Opened: 1969

Capacity: 15,000


The Dome is the Utes Home

The University of Utah was founded in 1850 and is the largest school in the state with nearly 30,000 students. It offers more than 190 graduate and undergraduate areas of study. The school is in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains overlooking Salt Lake City.

One of the most unique buildings on the University of Utah campus is also the home to the Runnin’ Utes basketball program. The silver-domed building is the Jon Huntsman Center, home to Utah basketball since 1969. The 15,000 arena is the largest basketball venue in the PAC-12. It has been a very intimidating place for opponents, as the Utes have a .803 winning percentage in home games. Many people credit the dome design for amplifying the noise within the facility, making it hard for the visiting team to communicate.

The basketball program has been the crown jewel of the athletic department ever since the 1940s. The Utes’ won the NCAA National Championship in 1944 and came in second in 1988. The team won 12 WAC Championships before relocating to the PAC-12 in 2011. Utah has made it to the Sweet Sixteen 10 times, the Elite 8 six times, and the Final Four on four occasions. It has made 29 NCAA Tournament appearances and has 38 NCAA Tournament wins in its history. Some of its most noteworthy players over the years include Andrew Bogut, Andre Miller, Keith Van Horn, and longtime coach Rick Majerus.

Food & Beverage 3

The Huntsman Center has six concession areas spread evenly around the concourse of the arena. They serve the typical arena fare, with no local favorites that stand out. A review of the menu includes hot dogs ($5), brats ($6), burgers ($7), nachos ($5), pizza ($8) pretzels ($5), popcorn ($5), candy ($4), and ice cream ($4).

Beverages include Pepsi brand sodas ($5), bottled water ($4), and frozen lemonade ($5). Alcohol is not allowed to be sold in university facilities.

Atmosphere 4

The school made major renovations to the arena in 2014. These changes were all made to improve the fan experience. The seating was replaced and moved much closer to the floor. All seats in the arena are now box seats and are much more comfortable for the fans.

A new scoreboard was installed in 2014, which includes closed captioning for the hearing impaired.

The Center also widened the concourse to improve traffic. The lighting and the sound system were overhauled to provide fans at both athletic events and concerts with a more satisfying experience.

Additional improvements include a new basketball floor with updated graphics and the installation of banners honoring the great Ute teams of the past and the retired numbers of Ute players from over the years.

Neighborhood 5

The area surrounding the Jon Huntsman Center is known as the University District. It has a very different feel to it than downtown Salt Lake City … just a mere three miles away. The University District feels like a small college town with students and professors living next door to each other. It is filled with tree-lined streets and many historic homes dating back to when the University of Utah was founded.

Most of the activity in the area is found along 1300 East, the main street cutting through the area. You’ll find great restaurants like Pie Pizzeria and Eggs in the City, alongside mom-and-pop type shops and boutiques in this area. Hotels near the campus include the Salt Lake City Marriott University Park and the Hampton Inn University.

If you like the great outdoors, you will love the University District. It is at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains that surround Salt Lake City and offers tons of hiking trails in the moderate months and easy access to several ski resorts located less than 50 miles from the campus. Just the view alone as you exit the Huntsman Center will give you a wonderful view of the Wasatch Mountains.

Fans 5

The team is known as the Runnin’ Utes because they play an up-tempo offense that usually results in high final scores. This energy is transferred from the court to the stands and gets the crowd lights-out free-throw fired up. Make sure you are in your seat in time for the player introductions, as it is a lights-out production using a 3D mapping video projected onto the court surface.

One of the key fan groups for the Utes basketball program is the student section known as the “MUSS.” MUSS is an official athletic fan club and its name stands for the Mighty Utah Student Section. They come prepared for each game with specific chants aimed at the opposition. They also revel in creating a MUSS by trying to disrupt the communications and concentration of the other team, especially at the free-throw line. Helping to lead these cheers is Swoop the Red-Tailed Hawk, the school’s official mascot.

Even though Utah is a relatively isolated state, the Utes have some fierce in-state rivalries. Their top rival is Brigham Young University, followed by games featuring Utah State, Weber State, and the University of Southern Utah. These are guaranteed sellouts and are sometimes moved to the larger Vivint Smart Home Arena in downtown Salt Lake City which can hold more fans.

Access 3

Getting to a Utah game can be very easy… or very confusing… due to Salt Lake City’s penchant for using East, West, North, or South in virtually every street name. Here are the best directions via the two interstates in the area. From I-15 or I-80: Take the 600 South exits. Take 600 South to 700 East. Turn right at 400 South. Continue east on 400 South until you reach the Campus Center Drive intersection.

Turn left onto Campus Center Drive, then bear left onto South Campus Center Drive. Proceed east to Mario Capecchi Drive. The parking deck will be just east of the silver-domed Huntsman Center. Parking is extremely limited on campus for any weeknight games. Additional parking is available at the Rice–Eccles Football Stadium, where free shuttles will run you up to the Huntsman Center.

By far the best deal to get to Utes games is via the UTA / TRAX public transportation system. Your game ticket serves as your pass on game days. This allows you to ride for a free round trip to and from the Huntsman Center. The train stop to take is at the South Campus rail station. It is a very short walk to the Huntsman Center from the station… just look for the silver dome.

Return on Investment 5

Free parking is available at Rice-Eccles Stadium or free rides are available on the UTA/TRAX rail system by using your game ticket on game days. There are pay lots on campus at the Marriott Library, the Olpin Union, and the Business School. Game tickets range from $30 up to $300 depending on your seat selection.

Extras 5

The Ute name used by the Utah Athletic teams refers to an Indian nation whose tribal grounds are in Northern Utah. The university has the approval of the Ute Tribal Council to use the name and shows great respect for the tribal customs and people in all marketing and promotional references.

The red block “U” on the hillside above campus was originally built in the 1930sdays and has been upgraded many times over the years. It now features red and white lights that outline the letter. It is lit up on game days/nights and other special campus events. It flashes after a Ute victory.

An extra goes to the agreement between the university and the transit authority to allow a game day ticket also serves as a train or bus pass. This reduces congestion and traffic issues and is good for the environment.

One of the most viewed college basketball games ever took place at the Huntsman Center. The 1979 National Championship game featured Larry Bird and his Indiana State Sycamores versus the Magic Johnson-led team from Michigan State. It would be the last college game for both players, as they both went pro soon after.

Before the now common practice of using professional sports arenas for league tournaments and NCAA Tournament games, the Jon Huntsman Arena was a very popular site for these tournaments as the largest venue in the West. It hosted countless WAC tournaments, the NCAA Western Regional in 1971 and 1981, and the Final Four in 1979.

Final Thoughts

Jon Huntsman often serves as the site for regional tournaments due to its large city capacity and the large inventory of hotel rooms in downtown Salt Lake City. The Utes play a crowd-pleasing up-tempo game that has brought them success since the championship days of the late Rick Majerus, a time when the Utes were regulars in the NCAA tournaments. The renovated arena continues to draw well, second only to the Utah Jazz playing down on the valley below at the Vivint SmartHome Arena.

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