New York City has 67% more major teams than the entire state of Utah. Let’s face it; compared to other cities and states, Utah does not have the same professional sporting options. While it may have less, Utah has a rich sports history that extends from professional teams, the 2002 Winter Olympics, storied college programs, and rodeo events.
To house fans for these events, Utah has some great arenas and stadiums that promote its unique culture, environment, and history. In this article series, I will be taking us through a journey of Utah’s stadiums four parts (so many more stadiums than you think in a small state) and giving them an A-F grade based on the criteria below.
- Historical Relevance
- Events Stadium Holds or Held
To keep our list focused, I only considered stadiums that primarily focus on sporting events and have 2,000+ seating capacities. I will only be choosing one stadium/arena from each major college as well. I know some colleges have multiple wonderful venues, but this will limit me to highlight my favorite one. I will also not be including any high school stadiums.
Stadiums are ordered based on their location. Without delay, let’s dive into our journey starting in the north.
Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium (Logan, UT)
Photo Credit: utahstateaggies.com
Overview: Opening in 1968, this stadium is the home of the Utah State University Aggies Football program. The stadium has a seating capacity of 25,513 which can house almost half of Logan's population.
What I Like
Jim and Carol Laub Athletics-Academic Complex: My favorite part about this stadium is this complex behind the northern end zone. This facility is three stories devoted to student athletes. Within you can find football, women’s track and field, women’s soccer, and softball locker rooms, an academic center, coaching rooms, the Steve Mothersell Hall of Fame, computer labs, conference rooms, and a sports medicine research center and complex. (Archer) With its resources, this beautiful building helps to build the football program’s atmosphere for fans and recruits helping them succeed on and off the field. Most college stadiums do not have a facility like this.
Plaza Entrance: This southern stadium access point is a great entryway. I always love stadium designs that are not only pretty, but make it easier for the fans to get around. Unlike other stadiums, if you sit in the lower bowl, you do not have to walk up stairs, but can just descend into your seats from this entrance. No leg workout, but you'll have more energy to cheer on the Aggies. Along with this design, a bronze statue of Merlin Olsen, a Pro and College Football Hall of Fame inductee, greets you as you come in.
What I Want
Accessibility & Weather: For the great venue that it is, the stadium is too far north from Utah’s central hub. No public transportation can take you to Logan, so if you want to see the stadium, you have to drive. At least part of the drive is through a beautiful canyon.
Being far north also means that game temperatures are much more frigid than going to a college game in Salt Lake or Utah County. According to US Climate Data, the stadium will be about 6-8 degrees cooler compared to stadiums further south. (Weather) I grew up in a desert, so the cold always sucks my fun away.
While the stadium is a top grade facility and pays homage to its best player, I gave it a minus grade since it's in Utah's coldest area. Open air stadium and cold, fall weather football means fans freeze. If you can brave the weather with multiple jacket layers, this is the place you need to be. Other than that, Merlin Field is everything I like in a college stadium: historical pieces, sleek style, and passionate fans.
Lindquist Field (Ogden, UT)
Overview: Opening in 1997, this 6,700 seat stadium is the home of the minor league baseball team Ogden Raptors (Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate). The stadium is located in downtown Ogden near the UTA train station and Ogden Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The stadium has also hosted events like the Archery World Cup, World Youth Archery Championships, a Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game, and various high school state and all-star competitions in baseball, softball, and soccer.
What I Like
Impact on Ogden: When I visited relatives who lived in Northern Ogden during the mid-2000 summers, we never went downtown because it was dirty and unsafe. Now when I visit, we visit main street more frequently to watch parades, get sweet potato pies, or buy recreational apparel. Ogden’s downtown was rapidly dying until Lindquist Field was constructed. The stadium gave people an initial reason to revisit downtown and lead to further urban renewal with new restaurants, hotels, theaters, entertainment, and even Lime scooters. (Shenefelt)
Front Gates: As part of the architecture, I love the front gate’s design. Ogden is a blue-collar railroad town that had huge iron industry manufacturers. With the way that the front gate’s stadium sign is held up by steel bars, I instantly feel that connection the venue has with being built on Ogden Iron Works' former land. The clock on the tall brick pillar also has some cog works theme that I find fascinating. The clock may not be the most useful in telling time, but still is a great artistic piece to welcome you into the stadium.
Mountain Views: The field is considered as one of the best views in baseball by both BaseballParks.com and DigitalBallParks.com. (Lindquist) Not only do you have great seats to see baseball action, but you are front row in seeing the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. If the photo below does not do you enough justice, then it looks like you need to take a trip to the field soon.
Photo Credit: Lenna Nuttall
What I Want
Outfield Seats: One of my favorite parts of a minor league ballpark are the grassy outfield seats. Not only do grass seats provide unique seating options to stretch legs, sit on something soft, and get the kids’ wiggles out, but they also give that “summer picnic feel” for the ballpark. If stadium upgrades are coming, I want some resemblance of this concept at Lindquist Field if it can work.
Bigger Scoreboard: This seems a little nit-picky for a rookie ball team with a tight budget, but scoreboards are so important. They not only show game stats, but enhance guests’ experience through various entertainment. If the scoreboard were a little bigger, more fans could easily see it and the team could have more engaging content. Plus, a bigger scoreboard means more revenue from advertising space for local partners. Scoreboards are expensive though, and the current smaller one does the job.
I really believe in stadiums being drivers for a city’s economic growth if the city and owners know how to utilize it. From seeing Ogden shape into a city with new life, culture, and cleanliness I have to give credit to the first piece that made the revitalization possible. While Lindquist Field is not on the same magnitude as some other stadiums, it has a great economic impact and tribute to Ogden’s history and culture.
Dee Events Center (Ogden, UT)
Photo Credit: Weber State University
Overview: This domed arena opened in 1977 and can hold 11,500 spectators. As home to the Weber State University Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams, Dee Events Center has surprisingly been in the top 100 Division I schools for fan attendance. This includes a seven-year stint until 2017 where the Men’s Basketball attendance ranked with higher attendance than multiple Pac-12, Mountain West, and West Coast Conference schools. (Grua) The arena has also hosted multiple Big Sky Conference and NCAA tournament basketball games.
What I Like
Dome: While others may see the outside look as some sort of ancient giant turtle shell, I really like the center’s dome shape. Most other basketball arenas in the state are box-shaped, which is fine, but the dome shape really makes this arena stand out. I think the dome also stands out from the arena’s elevation on its personal hill, road access on every side, and greenery leading up to the entrances.
Parking: You will never have trouble finding close parking to this arena, period. The massive lot surrounds the arena. Unlike other college arenas, once the main parking lots fill up, you will not have to find odd-end lots around campus to get to an event here.
Inside: A new scoreboard and court floors really make the inside feel modern. Everything is brightly lit bringing out the purple team color from the spectators' seats. I love that the university made these updates to reward their loyal fans that attend.
Photo Credit: Weber State University
What I Want
Dome’s Colors: While the dome look fascinates me, I do have to admit that the colors could definitely be improved. Dark browns do not give me a good first impression that the inside will be anything remotely modern. Purple and white dome on the outside anyone?
Arena’s Atmosphere: While the fans have been showing up, if the teams were playing better basketball against higher profile groups, fans would come out even more for support. With only six NCAA appearances in the past 34 years, the team nationally has not been prominent like other state universities. Not playing at the highest level affects how involved the fans engage with the team and the overall game day atmosphere. If the atmosphere from Weber State's run to the 2013 CIT Finals (held at the arena) could be replicated, I would be all in on this being one of the better Utah college basketball atmospheres.
While the architecture is fascinating and parking is abundant, the colors and lack of atmosphere give this arena a lower grade. With the exception of the CIT Finals and other first round tournament play being hosted, the arena has not hosted major events with the same gravity like BYU, the University of Utah, or Utah State.
The Ice Sheet (Ogden, UT)
Overview: Built specifically for the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Ice Sheet is the 2,400 seat arena of the Weber County Sports Complex. (TICKETS) During the Olympics, the arena hosted all curling events. The facility now is home ice for the Ogden Mustangs Junior A hockey team and hosts other community hockey, figure skating, and curling programs.
What I Like
The View: Unlike many ice arenas, the Ice Sheet has a beautiful outside view. With a wide window over the eastern goalie’s net, the view shows the majestic Wasatch Mountains making it one of the best views for a Junior A hockey club. This is hands-down my favorite part of the arena.
Photo Credit: Zack Ahrensback
The Olympics: Like many of the Olympic built venues, the Ice Sheet brought international viewers to Northern Utah to watch high-profile events. While other Olympic events are stronger, curling brought over 40,000 in-person spectators. (Salt Lake) Hosting this number of guests in less than two weeks is a huge achievement; the Mustangs host around half that number in an entire four month season. (TEAM) The Ice Sheet’s contributions to the 2002 games helped bring Utah worldwide sporting recognition.
VIP Room: Even with the Olympics being held at the arena, I did not expect the Mustangs to have a full-fledged VIP room. This room has comfortable seating, high top tables, local food and beverages, game time TVs, and a Mustang's metal logo sign. The room also extends into seats below it to view the game over the goalie or to a deck that views another outside look. For a junior hockey team, I am surprised they have something this nice to use to enhance guests’ arena experience.
What I Want
Colors: My first impressions of any venue comes from the colors. I really enjoy when venues choose their color schemes to match their teams. The Ice Sheet’s seats have murky red and light tan colors that look more like they host a sand-themed team. For the Olympics, I wish they would have added colorful seats that matched the 2002 logo's light blues and oranges. They could also update the seats now to match the Mustang's red, white, or silvers. I understand a project like that would be costly, but it would build the arena’s expressive personality.
Lighting: The lighting for the spectator section seems very dark. I know that teams like to light the ice more to emphasize the game play, but that does not mean you have to completely shut off the lights around the fans. This makes it seem like the stadium is less lively. Maybe the colors are still affecting my eyes, but turning the lights up seems less expensive than new coats of paint.
Seating may feel gloomy, but this arena has the history and the views that gives it this deserving grade. If certain design elements were better and higher-profile events continued to come, I would have given it a higher grade on my list. For the time being, it is a great arena to skate, watch a hockey match, and reconnect with Olympic history.
Ogden Pioneer Stadium (Ogden, UT)
Photo Credit: Standard Examiner
Overview: Being one of the oldest Utah stadiums with an opening in 1934, Ogden’s Pioneer Stadium is home to the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo, one of the state's biggest rodeos. Demolition derbies and monster truck shows are also held at this stadium where up to 10,000 spectators can watch the events.
What I Like
Rodeo Accolades: For 85+ years, the stadium’s main event has been a rodeo staple. Growing up in the California desert, the closest thing I had to a rodeo were ostrich and pig races at a local date festival. When I came to Utah, I was surprised at how big of a deal rodeos were including the Pioneer Days Rodeo. This rodeo is one of the top five PRCA rodeos in the nation and was formally inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2017. (PRCA) This event brings 30,000 people to watch the festivities. Connecting to Utah’s western heritage and boosting Ogden's economy and tourism is a great combination the stadium has with its events.
Stadium Atmosphere: All seats are great spots to have being close to the action. Combine that with fans whooping, hollering, and yee-hawing and you feel like you are a part of cowboy country.
What I Want
Jazz Seats: If you look at the picture above, you can see that seats are green, brown, and tan. The green seats were donated by the Utah Jazz NBA team when they were installing new ones for their arena. While I think the charitable aspect of this is to be highly applauded, and I love when organizations repurpose things, the seats mesh with the older seats to make the stadium look like a patched-up pair of jeans. If the stadium had one consistent color with the seats, the aesthetics would look much better to me. Maybe a fresh coat of brown is due for the Jazz seats soon.
Stadium Upgrades: For being almost 100 years old, the stadium needs some other upgrades to make it look like it is not just seating sections situated around a dirt lot. I recently read a new proposal for new seating in the south grandstands, a new entrance in the west, and a pedestrian bridge to give fans safe access around animals. This proposal, with the picture below, sum up what I wish for the stadium going forward. You can read more about the proposal from Tim Vandenack's article.
Photo Credit: Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner
I know it seems a little harsh giving a nearly 100 year old stadium this grade, but other than the history, it does not have great architecture. I did give it some more credit though for being a great economic and tourism driver, although Lindquist Field brings in more than quadruple the amount of guests than the rodeo. (Pioneer) I hope the upgrades go through, so that the stadium can continue to evolve to stay open for the next 100 years.
From college stadiums to rodeo arenas, Utah has great sports venues to check out. Based on my personal opinion, I have given each stadium a grade. To refresh your memory, here are their grades in descending order below:
- Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium (A-)
- Lindquist Field (B+)
- The Ice Sheet (B+)
- Dee Events Center (B)
- Ogden Pioneer Stadium (C)
Whether they have bad color schemes, or wonderful mountain views, each stadium has a place in Utah sports history. If you need a new place to take the family, catch a game, or just admire a cool spot, I hope you are able to find a new place to check out.
Look for my next list when we grade six more stadiums around the Salt Lake area.
Archer, Dave. “Jim & Carol Laub Athletics-Academics Complex a Boost to Aggie Athletics.” Utah State University, USU Athletic Media Relations, 2 Oct. 2008, www.usu.edu/today/story/jim-amp-carol-laub-athletics-academics-complex-a-boost-to-aggie-athletics.
“Weather Averages Logan, Utah.” Temperature - Precipitation - Sunshine - Snowfall, US Climate Data, 2020, www.usclimatedata.com/climate/logan/utah/united-states/usut0147.
Cox, Erin. “Magical Merlin: The Incredible Life of Logan Native Merlin Olsen.” The Herald Journal, 13 Jan. 2017, www.hjnews.com/cache_magazine/magical-merlin-the-incredible-life-of-logan-native-merlin-olsen/article_b57a79fe-6a5e-57cb-adfc-d6fd66c75497.html. Photograph of Merlin Olsen statue taken by Jeff Hunter from the Herald Journal
Shenefelt, Mark. “Lindquist Field Was an Early Anchor to Downtown Ogden's Rebirth.” Standard Examiner, Standard Examiner, 17 June 2016, www.standard.net/sports/ogden-raptors/lindquist-field-was-an-early-anchor-to-downtown-ogden-s/article_0190e52f-ac7b-59f2-99ae-7c4c8bda7039.html.
“Lindquist Field History.” MiLB.com, Ogden Raptors, www.milb.com/ogden/ballpark/history/.
Grua, Paul. “Men's Basketball Again in Top 100 Nationally in Attendance.” Weber State University Athletics, Weber State Athletic Communications, 9 Aug. 2017, 9:56 AM, weberstatesports.com/news/2017/8/9/wsu-mens-basketball-again-in-top-100-in-attendance.aspx?path=mbball.
“TICKETS.” Ogden Mustangs, Ogden Mustangs Junior A Hockey Team, www.ogdenmustangs.com/tickets.
- Salt Lake Organizing Committee (2002). Official Report of the XIX Olympic Winter Games (PDF). p. 99. ISBN 0-9717961-0-6. Retrieved 18 May 2020
- "TEAM." Ogden Mustangs, Ogden Mustangs Junior A Hockey Team, www.ogdenmustangs.com/team
“PRCA Rodeo.” Ogden Pioneer Days, Ogden Pioneer Days, www.ogdenpioneerdays.com/prca-rodeo/.
“Pioneer League Attendance: Pioneer League Stats.” Pioneer League, MiLB, 2019, www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=l_att&lid=128&sid=l128.
Vandenack, Tim. “Ogden's Pioneer Stadium Proposed $4.13M Overhaul to Upgrade Seats.” Ogden Pioneer Days, Ogden Pioneer Days, 29 Mar. 2020, www.ogdenpioneerdays.com/ogdens-pioneer-stadium-proposed-4-13m-overhaul-to-upgrade-seats/.