SALT LAKE CITY — Cranes and construction workers surrounded the Olympic Cauldron Park Thursday afternoon in preparation for the Rice-Eccles stadium expansion, only to face a small hiccup.
“Welcome to construction, it’s always a little bit of an adjustment on the fly,” said Joshua Haines, PMP, vice president of Layton Construction with a laugh Thursday.
Original plans to move the 72-foot tall 2002 Olympic Cauldron were postponed to Friday when the moving company, Mountain Crane, realized the cauldron was bolted down to 2 feet of cement, making it substantially more heavy than originally estimated.
A crane to handle the now estimated 56,000-pound cauldron was brought in, and Friday morning, crews moved the structure.
For about a year, the cauldron will relocate to a secured location for refurbishments while construction for the Ken Garff Performance Zone is underway.
By football season 2021, the cauldron will be back on the University of Utah campus permanently.
Preliminary work for stadium expansion began in January on the south side of the stadium. According to Paul Kirk, the associate athletic director for communications at the University of Utah, the Performance Zone will replace a majority of the Olympic Cauldron Park creating 5,000 more available seats, which will include premium seating options, bringing the new seating capacity to a little more than 51,000.
Seating on the south end zone will be torn down after the 2020 football season.
Reconstruction plans have always encompassed the cauldron, Kirk told KSL.com.
The new cauldron will sit on a 16-18 foot concrete pedestal west of its current location south of the stadium to protect the structure and make it more visible to the general public. The new plaza will also incorporate a water feature surrounding the cauldron, to commemorate the theme of fire and ice from the 2002 winter Olympics.
A full refurbishing process will include removing all 738 individual glass panes from the cauldron, replacing them with new glass and LED lights. Due to weather and time, the cauldron’s current glass panes are deteriorating. Plans for the new glass will include similar bright colors from the 2002 cauldron.
The cauldron's infrastructure will also change from its original fire winding up the feature and water cooling system.
“We're not using natural gas that’s contributing to pollution,” said Shawn Wood, community liaison and communications specialist for the University of Utah. “It's gonna be a lot more energy-efficient.”
Wood told KSL.com that they want to make it last another 18 years, and even longer.
Once back in place, the cauldron will continue to only be lit for special occasions.
“It’s one of those things that we want to keep special,” Wood said. “We just want to continue on with that legacy. The 2002 Olympics was one of the most successful Olympics, and we just want to continue to make the culture last as long as it can.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said construction began in January 2019, that 10,000 new seats would be added and that the seating would be torn down in the 2021 season. These mistakes have been corrected.