American Football Wiki
Rice Stadium
Location 451 South 1400 East,
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112
Broke ground February 1, 1927[1]
Opened October 1, 1927
Closed 1997 - (rebuilt)
Owner University of Utah
Operator University of Utah
Surface SportGrass (1995-97)
Astroturf (1972-94)
Natural grass (1927-71)
Construction cost $133,000
($NaN in 2022 dollars[2])
Former names Ute Stadium (1927-71)
Tenants Utah Utes (NCAA) (1927-97)
Capacity 32,500 (1972-1997)
30,000 (1947-1971)
20,000 (1927-1946)

Robert Rice Stadium was an outdoor athletic stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah, located on the campus of the University of Utah. Originally opened in 1927 as "Ute Stadium," it was the home of the Utah Utes football team. Renamed for Robert L. Rice in 1972, it was almost completely demolished after the 1997 season to make way for the Utes' current home, Rice-Eccles Stadium, which occupies the same physical footprint.


After a record crowd came to the Utes' previous home, Cummings Field, to see Utah play Utah State on Thanksgiving Day 1926, a drive began for a larger and more modern stadium. While the state house unanimously approved a loan from the state in order to build a new stadium, the state senate adjourned before taking it up. To get around the problem, the U of U formed a stadium trust that issued tax-free bonds for the new stadium. The stadium was also funded in part by selling tickets to two home games for the next 10 years. Total cost came to $133,000.[3]

The stadium, originally named Ute Stadium, opened in 1927 with a seating capacity of 20,000. The first college football game was a 40–6 Ute victory over Colorado Mines on October 1. It was dedicated three weeks later on October 22 with a 20–13 victory over Colorado.[4] On hand was Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden.[3] Originally, the stadium was built of timber and concrete, with earth-fill.[5]

For 20 years, a giant pile of dirt stood in the north end zone. In 1947, 10,000 seats were added in the north end, turning the stadium into a horseshoe.

After the 1971 season, health club pioneer Robert L. Rice donated $1 million towards the stadium's first major facelift: 2,500 seats were added in the south end zone, and the bleachers were replaced with chair seats. The old grass surface was also replaced with AstroTurf. The dressing rooms were also remodeled, and the running track was removed. The renovated stadium was dedicated in Rice's honor with the start of the 1972 season. In 1982, the field was lowered 9.5 feet, and new seats were built along the sidelines and on the south end. After the 1994 season, the turf was replaced with SportGrass, a natural grass surface grown on top of a layer of artificial turf.[5]

For many years, the stadium also doubled as an amphitheater during the summer.[3]

Although it was noted as one of the more intimate venues in college football, it had become somewhat antiquated by the 1980s. Very few Division I-A stadiums remained by then that used timber as a major part of its construction.

The stadium, as photographed in 1929, when it was still known as Ute Stadium and prior to any additions.


After Salt Lake City was awarded the 2002 Winter Olympics in 1995, it soon became obvious that Rice Stadium was not adequate to be the main stadium. With this in mind, the athletic department decided to completely overhaul the facility to bring it up to modern standards. After the 1997 season, virtually all of the old stadium was demolished to make way for Rice-Eccles Stadium. All that remains of the old stadium are the bleachers built in the south end zone in 1982.

Football attendance records

Attendance Records
Rank Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 November 20, 1982 BYU L 17–12 36,250
2 November 17, 1984 #3 BYU L 24–14 36,110
3 September 13, 1986 San Diego State L 37–30 35,982
4 November 23, 1996 #8 BYU L 37–17 35,378
5 September 24, 1994 Wyoming W 41–7 34,607
6 November 19, 1988 BYU W 57–28 34,216
7 November 19, 1994 #20 BYU W 34–31 34,139
8 November 22, 1986 BYU L 35–21 34,128
9 August 30, 1997 Utah State L 21–14 33,804
10 November 17, 1990 #5 BYU L 45–22 33,515
11 November 21, 1992 BYU L 31–22 33,348
12 October 3, 1986 Air Force L 45–35 33,281
13 October 4, 1985 Wyoming W 37–20 33,248
14 September 24, 1988 Hawaii L 48–20 32,892
15 October 29, 1994 UTEP W 52–7 32,620


  1. "Stadiums Will Promote Physical Fitness", February 2, 1927. Retrieved on August 27, 2012. 
  2. Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2008. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Sorensen, Parry. Out with the old, in with the new. Continuum. University of Utah Alumni Association, 1998.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Former info page at official Utes athletic site
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