Univ. of Utah tracking ‘fan quakes’ during football games at Rice-Eccles Stadium

Sep 2, 2023, 9:26 AM | Updated: 11:29 am

Rice-Eccles Stadium during the Utes' season-opening win over Florida on Aug. 31, 2023. (@UtahAthlet...

Rice-Eccles Stadium during the Utes' season-opening win over Florida on Aug. 31, 2023. (@UtahAthletics/X)


SALT LAKE CITY — Seismologists at the University of Utah have installed an accelerograph at Rice-Eccles Stadium to show the “earth-shaking” impact of Ute fans during the 2023 football season.

The seismometer was placed in a ground-level utility room and bolted to the concrete floor. There it will stay for the entire football season, recording ground-shaking data from the Utes’ seven home games.

“We’re going to try to convert the amount of energy that gets released either over an entire game or if there’s a big event, where it shakes a lot, and try to convert that into equivalent magnitude, how much energy is put into the ground,” said Jamie Farrell, an associate research professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics and football season ticket holder. “But if not, we can compare different things, like when the team ran into the stadium, when we scored our first touchdown or … a third-down stomp.”

Seismic data from the first quarter of Utah’s home opener vs. Florida on Aug. 31, 2023. (U of U Seismograph Stations/X)

Farrell told KSL NewsRadio the crowd’s reaction to the Utes’ opening play, a 70-yard touchdown pass from Bryson Barnes to Money Parks, was similar to a magnitude 1.5 earthquake. And that wasn’t even the strongest activity registered by the seismograph station at the stadium.

“Actually the biggest amplitude shaking for the entire game …  was probably when the team ran out of the tunnel at the beginning of the game,” Farrell said.

Seismologists say the accelerograph measures minute vibrations along three axes: east-west, north-south and up-down. Before the team ran out onto the field, they played music on the speaker system, Farrell said, which made everyone jump in unison. That made the ground shake more than just a random effort.

“Every time something happens in the stadium, the stadium shakes, that movement will be transferred from the stadium down into the ground,” Farrell said. “We record it on this, we will report some interesting things, hopefully some good things will happen during the games during the season and we have some pretty cool results of what we find here.”

Thursday night’s crowd broke the all-time attendance record at Rice-Eccles Stadium with 53,644 — breaking the previous mark of 53,609 from last season’s win over USC. The No. 14 Utes cruised to a 24-11 win over a mistake-prone Florida squad, avenging last year’s loss at The Swamp.

U of U Seismology Stations plan to live-tweet the seismic data during games to contribute to the U.’s game day experience and raise awareness of the stations’ vital public service of tracking earthquake activity across the state and region.

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Univ. of Utah tracking ‘fan quakes’ during football games at Rice-Eccles Stadium