Closer to home, the execution of Gary Gilmore placed Utah in the international spotlight, and in November, the Weber State men’s basketball team moved into its new home at the Dee Events Center.
In the ensuing 30 years, five men have called the White House home, the Yankees have won five more championships, and there have been five Star Wars sequels, not to mention countless Elvis sightings and impersonators—yet the Wildcats’ “Purple Palace” remains one of the premiere athletic and event venues in the Big Sky Conference.
To celebrate the milestone, the Dee Events Center and Wildcat Athletics staff will be giving out commemorative pins, t-shirts and cookies at the men’s basketball game against the Utah State University Aggies on Nov. 10. The first 2,500 fans at the game will receive a commemorative pin and t-shirt.
The “Dee” has hosted NCAA Tournament games four times (1980/1983/1986/1994), including the Western Region Finals in 1983, and seven men’s and two women’s Big Sky Tournaments. Alabama, Bill Cosby, Fleetwood Mac, Barry Manilow and the New York Philharmonic are just a few of the entertainers and groups who have performed in the facility. A George Strait concert in October 1996 still holds the record for the largest crowd in the building’s history, with 12,312 people in attendance.
Dee Events Center director Jody Lake joined the staff in 1980 and has witnessed most of the facility’s history.
“After all these years, I’m still awed by the vision, dedication and hard work of the people who helped create this facility,” Lake said. “With its great sight lines, amazing acoustics and ability to accommodate a variety of events and gatherings, we really are so lucky to have a venue of this caliber on our campus.”
Dean Hurst and Dale Gardner were the co-chairmen of the fundraising drive to build the facility in the early 1970s, when the fan base for the men’s basketball program was quickly outgrowing the seating capacity of Swenson Gymnasium.
“From the beginning we envisioned a multi-use facility, one that would accommodate the growing fan base the Wildcat basketball team was attracting and at the same time offer the community a venue similar to the Salt Palace that could host conventions, concerts and other events,” Hurst said. “Today, we continue to enjoy the benefits of that original vision, as the center is used by both the university and community for a wide variety of activities.”
Over the years, the Dee Events Center has been the site of a circus, tennis and wrestling matches, gatherings by religious groups, high school basketball championships and a presentation by acclaimed poet Maya Angelou, not to mention commencement exercises for WSU and area high schools.
Neil Armstrong, Gordon B. Hinckley, Jon M. Huntsman and Christopher Reeve are just a few of the luminaries who have spoken at the facility.
Hurst fondly recalls performances by a Scottish marching band and the New York Philharmonic, shows that couldn’t have been staged in Ogden without the venue.
“A ‘premiere facility’ is an overused phrase in this industry, but individuals still tell me on a consistent basis how beautiful they think this facility is,” Lake said.
Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.
DEE EVENTS CENTER FAST FACTS:
Price: $11.3 million to build
Total Land Area: 43 acres
Groundbreaking ceremonies: March 21, 1975
Dedication ceremonies: Nov. 1, 1977
First event in the facility: Nov. 29, 1977, WSU defeated Long Beach State 99-96 in overtime
Largest audience: 12,312 in Oct. 1996 for a George Strait concert
Largest attendance game: 11,715
Jan. 19, 1980 vs. Nevada
Feb. 9, 1980 vs. Montana State
Feb. 23, 1980 vs. Idaho State
Hosted four NCAA Tournament Rounds (1980/1983*/1986/1994)
* West Regional Final Site
Hosted seven men’s and two women’s Big Sky Basketball Tournaments
About the Building:
Construction: 12,000 cubic yards of concrete weighing 50 million pounds and 345 tons of steel
Dome: 309 feet 4 inches in diameter
32 feet 6 inches from base to peak
2 acres of area on dome surface
166 tons of wood beams
1 million pounds of roof and decking
450 tons of weight in roof
150 tons of scoreboard, sound and lighting
Seating: 11,612 seats
Floor: A new floor was installed at the start of the 1996-97 season
(A list of some of the artists who have performed in concert at the Dee Events Center)
Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO)
Earth, Wind & Fire
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
New York Philharmonic