When Salt Lake City was awarded the 2002 Winter Olympics in 1995, it was obvious that Rice Stadium, the largest outdoor stadium in Salt Lake City, was not suitable to serve as the main stadium. The concrete, timber, and earth-fill facility had been built in 1927 and was showing its age. In 1996, U of U athletic director Chris Hill announced plans to renovate Rice Stadium into a new facility that would be up to Olympic standards. It was initially expected to take three years to completely overhaul the facility.
However, in 1997, Spencer Eccles, a Utah alumnus and chairman of Utah’s biggest bank, First Security Corporation (now part of Wells Fargo), announced that the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation would donate $10 million toward the project. In recognition of this gift, the U of U received permission from the Eccles family to add George Eccles’s name to the stadium alongside that of Robert L. Rice, who had funded the original renovation project to Rice Stadium in 1972. Before it was called Rice Stadium, it was called Ute Stadium, which opened in 1927 with a Utah win over Colorado Mines.
Immediately after the final home game on November 15, fittingly a 31–14 victory over Rice, most of Rice Stadium was demolished for the renovation. All that remained of the old stadium were the stands in the south end zone, built in 1982. The stadium did not miss a football season, as the project was timed not to disrupt the 1997 home schedule. The new stadium was ready less than 10 months later for the 1998 home opener, a 45–22 win over Louisville on September 12. The stadium now seats 45,807 and has a 6-story press box, as in 2014 a row of bleachers has been added in the standing room areas on the east, west and north sections of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Forty ADA seats were also added for a total of 790 new seats, bringing the capacity of Rice-Eccles Stadium to 45,807 (from 45,017). There will still be space for standing room behind the new row of bleachers.
In June 2010, the U of U accepted an invitation to join the Pacific-10 Conference (which changed its name to the Pacific-12 Conference shortly after the Utah Utes and the Colorado Buffaloes joined) and began playing in the conference during 2011-2012 season. It is expected that Rice-Eccles Stadium is to be expanded and the locker room facilities upgraded. This claim was furthered when both KSL.com and the Deseret News reported that the University was seriously considering expanding the stadium by at least 10,000 seats, which would bring the total stadium capacity to anywhere between 55,000 to 60,000.