ASU baseball counters rival UA with its own new stadium

As the old expression goes… the price of poker is going up.  At least in Arizona college athletics, where Arizona State has just upped the ante one more time in the marketing war with its Pac-12 rival down in Tucson.

ASU just announced plans to move its baseball program to the new stadium being built at the intersection of the Loop 101 and 202 freeways in Mesa, being developed in a partnership between the City of Mesa and the Chicago Cubs.  The new spring training facility, which will break ground July 11, will also become the new home of the Sun Devils baseball program.

This war of facilities proliferation between the two schools began in February of 2010 when the University of Arizona Board of Regents approved the most expensive construction project in the history of Arizona Athletics, an $85.7 million renovation of the school’s football stadium.

The new north end-zone facility, which is scheduled for completion in June of 2013, will include a multi-story building that will hold 5,000 seats, a luxury loge area, football offices, and a new Wildcats locker room.

Then the new athletic director, Greg Byrne, upped the ante again when he announced the baseball program had worked out a 10-year agreement to use the city-owned Hi Corbett Field as its home after 44 years at the on-campus Frank Sancet Stadium.  (See 8/11/11 phxfan article) The team began using Hi Corbett this season.

That shrewd move gives the school a unique marketing tool to help sell potential baseball recruits, since the stadium is a professional facility that has been used for major-league spring training and minor-league games.  Upgrades were added that provided the Wildcats with renovated clubhouses and locker rooms and a new video-display scoreboard.

Arizona State responded with its own football stadium renovations and now a new baseball stadium, a $99 million project that will include a shared playing field and seven full-size practice fields.

Yesterday, ASU joined with the City of Mesa and the Chicago Cubs in announcing the official kick-off of the construction project, which had been approved by Mesa voters in 2010.  The official announcement indicated the agreement with ASU is in its final stages.

Just last month, ASU also unveiled another major project that will enhance its marketing cache and give the football program – and its new head coach – a big boost. A major renovation of Sun Devil Stadium, that could cost as much as $300 million, will be done in stages and is expected to be completed in anywhere from three to five years.  (See 4/05/12 phxfan article)

The construction timetable for the baseball stadium wasn’t included in yesterday’s news, but more information is scheduled to be released at the July 11 ground-breaking ceremony.

This unique agreement between a university, a municipality, and a major league baseball organization will bring a number of benefits to ASU, the most important an increase in long-term revenue and a shot in the arm to recruiting efforts.

The latter is particularly important in light of the Wildcats program being able to use Hi Corbett as a significant recruiting advantage for the time being.

Now it looks like it’s Arizona’s turn to up the ante.