Editor’s note: This article is a part of a series reviewing Utah and U.S. history for KSL.com’s Historic section.
OGDEN — Call it the end of an era for a 40-year-old piece of Weber State University’s campus.
Crews this week tore down the Dee Events Center marquee, which became a relic of past state-of-the-art technology. It was torn down to make an easier route for a new rapid bus transit system coming to Ogden.
The Dee Events Center opened in 1977 but if you’ve ever been there, you know the building is tucked away from one of its primary entrances off of Harrison Boulevard. Hence, the desire formed for a marquee informing people of the entrance and the events happening at the venue.
“It was kind of like a landmark entrance just to kind of indicate this new facility that was built in Ogden,” explained Crystal Taylor, who is the current director of event facilities and parking for Weber State University.
The large brick gateway came with electronic signage with fluorescent and incandescent that could light up messages. At the time, there were very few items quite like it in the city.
Dean Hurst, the school’s presidential assistant at the time, said the purpose of the marquee was to provide “an element of visibility to help identify the center, and furnish a vehicle for campus-related and pertinent messages simultaneously,” according to the report in a January 1980 edition of the Weber State Signpost.
The art installation cost over $200,000 at the time, which would equate to over $725,000 today when adjusting for inflation. Most of the funding came from the Edith Dee Mack Green Foundation, the student newspaper reported at the time.
The fancy electronic sign could be controlled through the use of a computer in an event center office. Taylor said she heard all sorts of stories about this operating system from her predecessor, former longtime university employee Jody Lake. Lake worked in the secretary’s office by the time the marquee was fully functional.
“She said at the time it was state-of-the-art when it was built,” Taylor said, recalling those conversations, adding that Lake would have to travel north to a company in Logan weekly to receive lessons on how to use the computer and manually adjust the sign’s messages.
This marquee flashed messages for many of the prominent events that happened in the history of the Dee Events Center. For instance, the arena was the host site of the 1983 men’s NCAA tournament West Regional Finals, where legendary coach Jim Valvano led North Carolina State past Virginia to reach the Final Four, and an eventual NCAA championship.
Beyond Weber State and other NCAA hoops, the center has also hosted various musical, political and cultural icons over the course of four decades. Attendees likely traveled by the sign on their way in.
But the marquee and its sign suffered the fate of nearly all pieces of technology. As years passed, the structure wasn’t exactly necessary anymore and the sign became obsolete, even a burden for the school.
“It became more and more problematic to try and program it,” Taylor said. “There were quite a few Band-Aids and fixes that were placed on it. … It was aging and there were no upgrades available.”
Taylor said that it finally stopped being operational about a decade ago, adding that administrators discussed possibly replacing the sign with new technology but ultimately nothing came to be.
A new idea that would incorporate the Weber State campus emerged as this was all taking place. The Utah Transit Authority began planning a rapid bus transit system from the Ogden FrontRunner station to McKay-Dee Hospital, with downtown Ogden and Weber State campus in between.
It was eventually determined that it would be an easier route for the bus system without the marquee in the way. The university posted on Facebook that the marquee would come down last month and posted a video to Twitter on Wednesday of the demolition.
Bye bye marquee. pic.twitter.com/k7iAT0J38e
— Weber State University (@WeberStateU) March 31, 2021
The marquee served its purpose.
As for the new technology replacing it, UTA stated Monday that 4400 South at the Weber State campus would be closed intermittently for the next few weeks to accommodate construction for the bus route in the area.
Construction on a Dee Events Center stop is expected to be finished in 2022 and the service is currently scheduled to launch in late 2023, according to a timeline provided by the agency.