Loyal Cougars

A Modest Proposal: Making updates to BYU’s athletic facilities

After a fit of jealousy, Jake gives a few proposals to update athletic facilities on BYU’s campus.

I made a huge mistake recently. Not a huge surprise to those who know me well, but this mistake was more egregious than any other.

After holding out strong for the past few weeks, I broke the 6th Commandment of College Sports which is, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s outrageous athletic facility.”

I finally gave into the temptation and scoured the internet for videos and photos of the new football facilities at Oregon and Alabama. After that I watched the video outlining Texas A&M’s plan to renovate Kyle Field. This was followed by researching expansion and renovation plans at Husky Stadium, Faurot Field and Bronco Stadium.

After spending hours on end lusting after these dazzling structures, I thought to myself, “Why isn’t BYU building anything new right now? Shouldn’t they be expanding LES? When are they going to put 50 luxury suites in the Marriott Center? WHY ISN’T EVERYTHING GOLD PLATED?!?!?”

I eventually came down from the mountain of high expectations and took long look at reality, which is 1) Not everyone has Nike writing their checks, 2) Some of these schools have endured horrible facilities for decades, and 3) BYU isn’t about to go into crazy amounts of debt to pimp out their stadiums. It should also be noted that BYU already has some pretty decent facilities.

BYU has a solid collection of amenities across the entire athletic department. While they are not incredibly modern, LaVell Edwards Stadium and the Marriott Center are two of the more iconic college sporting venues in the country. South Field is one of the best college soccer settings, and Miller Park is a quality baseball and softball complex.

The Student Athlete Building and Indoor Practice Facility are now ten years old and will be serviceable for another decade. And I know that the BYU Broadcast building isn’t technically an athletic facility, but it might as well be. At this point there are few immediate needs for BYU, but it doesn’t mean we can’t look down the road to future improvements.

So what should BYU’s next project be? If Tom Holmoe decided that I was in charge of future construction projects, this would be my ideal plan for BYU Athletics.

PROJECT ONE– Renovate the Smith Fieldhouse

The biggest need as of right now is a basketball practice facility. Back in May Tom Holmoe was asked about a basketball building and he said that it was, “Not something that has been approved but we are looking at doing things behind the scenes as far as fundraising.” Obviously a practice facility is on their radar but still a little ways off. It wouldn’t hurt if Danny Ainge can get a fat contract extension and Jimmer gets his 2014/15 contract option picked up, am I right?

The one pressing question about a basketball practice facility is where this building would be located. There isn’t a whole lot of real estate on the lower campus where most of the athletic buildings are located and there aren’t too my places up by the Marriott Center that would work either.

That being the case, I propose a serious renovation to the Smith Fieldhouse that would include an improved volleyball venue and a hub for the basketball program. Putting the basketball facility in the west end of the Smith Fieldhouse would be beneficial in the fact that basketball players can still be close to the Student Athlete Building and BYU wouldn’t have to find space for a new building.

Renovating the SFH would also help out the Olympic sport programs like soccer, track and field, gymnastics, tennis, golf and volleyball. They would all receive updates to their offices, meeting rooms and training areas.  I have a feeling that BYU would be more likely to drop some coin if it meant that more than one program could benefit.

More than anything, the SFH needs some love. It has been updated in bits and pieces since it was built in 1951 and needs some help. But before they do anything, they should have a pre-season basketball game there for old time sakes. Tell me that wouldn’t be awesome.

Other possible renovation options / ideas regarding a basketball facility:

  • Demolish the Bean Life Science Museum and build basketball practice facility right next to the Marriott Center. The museum has seen better days as it caught fire earlier this year. While this would be the best location for a basketball facility, something tells me that the academic types would frown upon the destruction of museum in favor of a few basketball courts. If they could find another home for the life science exhibits (maybe in the new massive life sciences building on the south end of campus) this would be a more feasible option.
  • Performing a similar gutting and rebuild of the Richards Building. This would have to be done in sections are certain parts of the RB have recently been refurbished.
  • If we had Phil Knight money, BYU could build a massive basketball building underneath Y Mountain. Complete with 4 weight rooms, 16 yoga studios, 20 basketball courts that can transform into 10 ice hockey rinks, 5 Olympic sized swimming pools, a hologram of Jimmer Fredette that just walks around the building shooting 3’s, and 400,000 square feet of meditation space, it would serve as an athletic building and a nuclear fallout shelter. A MAN CAN DREAM.

PROJECT TWO– Give LaVell Edwards Stadium a face lift

It’s easy to look at stadium expansion/renovation projects and ask why BYU isn’t doing anything similar. The last major renovation to LES was in 1982 when they added the permanent grandstands to the north and south end zones, lowering the field eight feet and removing the track surrounding the field. Since then there have been upgrades, including the most recent renovation that included new video walls and ribbons on the north and south stands.

So what hasn’t BYU expanded LES in the last 30 years? Quite simply, there isn’t a need. BYU still hovers around 60,000 in attendance every game but in 2012 there was only one game in which they eclipsed the 63,470 sellout mark, that being the Oregon State game. This really isn’t a surprise as college football as a whole has seen attendance decrease.  More specifically for BYU, they have seen a dip in attendance due to later start times (bad news for the blue haired audience) and a weaker home schedule.

All that being said, BYU should look into renovating LES with a focus on enhancing the game day experience. If there is no need for increasing the number of seats, they can make other changes that will entice people to attend the games and turn the stadium into a landmark. Here are my suggested changes for LaVell Edwards Stadium:

  1. Make update to the foundation for future expansion – One of the other major reasons why LES has not been expanded is the lack of foundational support for a major additions. The current site can only sustain so much weight and adding a second deck could be problematic. Also, the current state of the stadium doesn’t easily lend itself to expansions. Many fans want the corners of the end zones to be filled, but structurally, it’s not possible because the east and west stands sit at a different angle than the north and south stands. All that being said, BYU should revamp the foundation of the stadium so that it can sustain more weight and give BYU the option to add more seating in the future. Like I mentioned previously, there isn’t a need to expand but by making foundation updates now, additions in the future will be a lot easier.
  2. Update the façade – I started to notice that LES needed some serious exterior work when I saw a replay of when College GameDay came to BYU. The only recognizable feature is the backside of the press box that looks like a giant elevated slab of concrete. In reality, the stadium doesn’t have a true façade or shell. BYU should look at other stadiums that have recently undergone renovations. I really like what Michigan and Oklahoma have done with a brick lining. Also, Louisville and Oregon State have made some nice updates just improving one side of the stadium. If it was up to me, they should do something similar to Oregon and spruce up the press box, add some additional lounge areas and suites. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, just something that will be pleasing to the eye when you drive down University Parkway.
  3. Construct a GameDay Plaza – As of right now, there isn’t a lot that is dedicated to pre-game festivities. There is usually something set up in the parking lot west of the stadium, but who enjoys hanging out in a parking lot? Level out the landscape and parking lot on the south side of the stadium to create a plaza where fans can meet up pregame and enjoy giant projection screens, a family picnic area, food from local vendors and reserved tailgate parking. If you give people a quality space in which to tailgate, they will make it happen. In order for this to happen, the concessions building would need to move to the north side of the stadium. Overall, it would create a move inviting atmosphere on the south side of the stadium.

Those are my reasonable dreams. What are yours?


  1. nitroboy

    September 15, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Some of that money has to go to swimming and diving. By high school standards, it is really bad.

  2. Sanpete

    September 15, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    If you mean the east and west stands at LES rise at a different angle than the north and south, that doesn’t mean the corners can’t be built in.

    • Kurtis Larson (@kwlarson)

      September 15, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      It means it is impractical to fill in the corners as the stands are currently constituted. Tom Holmoe has said in the past that when the demand dictates it, they will look at filling in the corners knowing that would require a restructuring of at least three of the stands.

  3. Kurtis Larson (@kwlarson)

    September 15, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Re Basketball practice facility:

    It has long been rumored that the desired location for that facility is where the house at 450 East University Pkwy sits. BYU has tried to obtain that house and finally did so earlier this year after a high school student ran his car through the house. There has been enough smoke on this location for me to assume that is where it will go.

    You mentioned Bean Life Science mesuem as a possible location, and specifically the fire. The fire started while the museum was already under construction. They are expanding it to the east and it will be reopening in the spring of 2014. So I don’t that is a possibility.

    You mentioned moving the Bean exhibits to the new Life Sciences building but that building might actually help your other idea, and one tat I really like. Upon its completion, the Life Sciences building will house many offices that are in the Smith Fieldhouse, including Exersice Science and Nuroscience. A lot of space will be freed up at that time, making your renovation of the Fieldhouse a possibility. I remember walking the track a few years ago and thinking, “The hoops facility should be in here.” I would totally buy into that.

    Re LES upgrade:

    Definitely agree with #1 and #2. For #3, this is what I would do. The church has bought and moved roads before. I would buy the UCCU and Stadium Terrace apartments north of the stadium and the try to move Stadium Ave, creating a large amount of real estate just to the North of the stadium. I would build a large parking structure there for dignitaries, donors and Cougar Club members (basically all those who park in the surface lots right around LES). Those parking in the structure could walk through the garage right into the stadium.

    The facade of the garage could be tide into the new facade of the stadium, so it doesn’t stand out too much. This would open up the parking lots on the south and southeast of the stadium to become plaza/gathering/tailgating areas. BYU could also buy and move the part of Canyon Rd to the west of the stadium and bump the road out into the first few rows of the parking lot there, thereby crating a plaza area just to the west of LES. Now you would have plaza areas around half of the stadium.

    Think back to the Kyle Field video. The plaza to the west could be an alumni plaza, where the alumni association and cougar club can set up for their various members. The plaza to the southeast could become a tent /canopy city where current student and fans alike can tailgate and have a good time. The small plaza to the south, in between the two, could be a family fun zone and food truck area for those who have small kids to entertain (I mean… Mormons. Know your audiance.) and those who want the tailgate experience but don’t have the means or ability to go all out. This would/should get more people out to the stadium early, creating a reason for people go and enjoy themselves.

  4. The Real DSW

    September 15, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Another reason why the best option for building refurbishing involves South Campus, rather than the Southwest side. It’s not unfeasible to see the Smith Fieldhouse overhauled while the RB also undergoes significant changes (namely, in the pool and dance areas). BYU’s volleyball teams bring in significant funds to help offset funding for the SFH, and a minor RB renovation (such as updated locker rooms, seating above the pool, etc) would be “cheap” (by university standards … and certainly standards of a private university like BYU).

    Unfortunately, I don’t see renovations of LES or the proposed “GameDay plaza” being quite so feasible, due to local traffic concerns and expense reports. But a remodeling around the SFH/RB area would be welcome, and likely quiet those fans who call for something more.

  5. worfosaur

    September 15, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    The new life sciences building is no bigger the buildings it is replacing. Additionally, the Bean Museum is currently undergoing extensive renovations. I don’t think there will be any replacement of that facility anytime soon

  6. Spencer (@accounderson)

    September 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    I like the idea of renovating the Smith Fieldhouse. Perhaps they could add room for north bleachers to South Field in the process. It would be cool for the SFH to be a hybrid volleyball area and basketball facility.

  7. Wmiller419

    September 15, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Wifi or 4G signal improvements at LES

    • Jake Welch

      September 16, 2013 at 10:27 am

      100% agree with you there. At the Texas game during the rain delay people couldn’t get updates because they had no cell service. Having wifi that could support a large number of people would be a fantastic upgrade.

      • Jeff Rollins

        September 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm

        +1,000….for all the high tech things BYU is doing on TV and on the web you would think they would have better in-stadium options for radio, phone and web services. Printed programs are no longer available, how about a weekly program that can be viewed on an app during the game?

        Great article.

  8. WHO DEY

    September 16, 2013 at 9:52 am

    You want to destroy the BEAN? What is wrong with you??

  9. Rob

    September 16, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Man, adding another tier to the north, south and east end zones would be sick, but I don’t think BYU will EVER have the fan base for it. It just isn’t the tradition for happy valley. I see Utah getting 90k fans to a stadium before the cougs. it makes me very sad.


  10. Wes

    September 16, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Instead of throwing money into the old design of a very outdated stadium, they start saving cash for a new stadium.. a bowl that builds up not out. Some day….

  11. Blue Print

    September 16, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    As much as I would love to see a shell placed around LES, it isn’t going to happen. The soil cannot withstand the weight required without driving piles down into bedrock to hold it up. The estimate I heard was $25 million for the FOUNDATION work alone.

    At that point you then have easement right issues with the neighbors. BYU doesn’t own the property around the stadium and would have to buy out the properties or the rights of the surrounding parcels.

    Finally you have approximately $35-$50 million in infrastructure improvements which would be necessary if you added more than 5k seats IIRC.

    Due to ground issues, the best solution would be to move to a new, clean site and build from the ground up, if you want a significantly bigger stadium.

  12. Brandon

    September 18, 2013 at 12:46 am

    Well, since Welch went all out on the Y mountain man-cave fantasy, here’s mine for LaVell Edwards Stadium. To set the premise, yes, I intend to do a complete overhaul of the entire area.

    1. Buh-bye steel-looking structure with giant blue cigarettes. Pull it all down. Save the Video screens, SCRAP the ribbons, keep the drainage system (game saver against TX IMO), keep the Cougar Statue, burn the fading posters on the west side.

    2. Begin with… dun, dun, dun, a Parking Garage West of the stadium, and yes, link it to go under the road into the intramural fields. Make it go under the entire set of intramural fields, and open up multiple entrances/exits surrounding the structure. While your at it, in this underground parking garage, throw some of those fast-walking tracks you find in airports to shorten the walk. This will open up tons of space above ground for… my next point.

    3. Plaza to the west of the stadium… and since BYU is keen on removing roads around campus, might as well get rid of the road that is adjacent to the stadium’s west bleachers. If anything, make it a drop zone for mass transit, but do a stone brick style layout, where Cougar Club donaters can leave their mark on the grounds, much like what is done at the Gateway in Salt Lake, and the Disneyland front plaza in Anaheim. As for the rest of the plaza, let the design crew that did City Creek and the Outlets at Thanksgiving point go completely NUTS on this area. Theme? “The World Is Our Campus”. Get some multi-cultural stuff going on in there, especially emphasize a portion of these grounds to the Polynesian Culture BYU has espoused over the years. On game day, the Polynesian community could tailgate here luau-style. And of course… HAKA anyone? (Recap of this point: Super-plaza takes up what we now know to be the west parking lot)

    4. Now for the house. I think the foundation is pretty solid, so any changes to that should only be minor, as it was originally set with the fault line in mind. Since we’re in Fantasy-land, we’ll have some fun here.

    4a. Full bowl. Non-negotiable. Preferrably keep the same angles or something close to it, I’ve always loved the view of the mountains, the Provo Temple, and of course Y-mountain.

    4b. Full back seating everywhere. No more steel benches. Better yet, add retractable arm rests. And of course, the color of these seats? Blue and White. No letters in the seats, but I can be swayed on this. Just don’t make it tacky looking like the patchwork we have now.

    5. Upper deck walkway AROUND the entire stadium. Elevators at every other section. And since we’re through the looking glass, get some retractable tunnel roofing (again, like at city creek) for inclement weather.

    6. Press box. Keep on the west side of the stadium, keep it the length of the field, but build out to be deeper back, and add another floor for more box seats, perhaps on the bottom level with out windows to be sort of a “Hybrid” luxury-but-still-outside experience. Blue-hairs may go there.

    7. Under the stands – all around, get your usual concessions and things, but put some more design into it. Get some sit-down areas perhaps with full access to the game in progress.

    7b. Build out the Cougar Den into a full blow Cougar Cave. This could stay in its current spot, but theme it literally as a Cave. Bring in some marketing, make it two levels for more space, and add an extra entrance in the west plaza (see above). Add alternate stores in the north, south, and east stands (smaller, not themed, but still has the basic good selling swag).

    8. Last of all, get the lockerrooms under the north and south endzones. Dont’ care which team uses which locker room, but I like how teams take the field that way instead of from the diagonals… just looks messy.

    • Brett Hein

      September 18, 2013 at 9:16 am

      Man, that is some serious overhaul. Where you at, Vivint?

      • holyoakb

        September 18, 2013 at 12:54 pm

        Thank goodness no! Just a good imagination.