Sun Devil Stadium getting more than facelift…new name?

It’s kinda hard to tell lately whether the Arizona State football program is moving backward or forward.

A couple of months ago, the school announced they had met the June 1 deadline for raising $150,000 to be able to send the football team back to Camp Tontozona, the iconic practice facility in Payson that had been used since 1960 for pre-season training – until former coach, Dennis Erickson, put an end to the tradition four years ago.

The team heads up the hill next week to spend five days of concentrated effort in the quiet serenity of the pine country.  The money that was raised will help upgrade technology at the camp so that coaches can maintain a link with the outside world, including potential recruits.  (See 6/01/12 phxfan article)

Now, back to the future… it appears the school is contemplating hanging a new name on the 54-year-old football stadium.  It’s days as “Sun Devil Stadium” may be numbered.

ASU’s new athletic director, Steve Patterson, provided a ‘state-of-the-program’ update at a Tuesday morning brunch for the media.  During the 90-minute presentation that was orchestrated to coincide with interview opportunities with the football team, Patterson mentioned the idea of selling the naming rights when the current massive renovation project on the stadium is completed.  (See 4/5/12 phxfan article)  It’s in the “exploration” stage, he said.

It was probably just a matter of time before the administration began thinking along these lines.  When you’re faced with a project that could cost as much as $300 million – according to early estimates by the school – the next logical step is to find ways to pay for it as quickly as possible.

And don’t forget the contract for the new head football coach that was added about the same time.  Todd Graham will be making a cool $2 million a year on his five-year contract.  That’s another $10 million to add to the pot, since the stadium construction work was projected to take 3-5 years.

But first, the school officials have to find a sponsor willing to put up that kind of money – although they haven’t figured out yet just how much to ask for.  Putting a value on this kind of advertising is a job in itself.  And then they have to make sure the sponsor is a good fit for the university and its image.

Normally, it seems the thought turns to either a money-laden technology company, an airline, or a financial institution like a bank.

As luck would have it, ASU announced earlier this year it is entering into an 11-year marketing program with MidFirst Bank, something they call a “comprehensive strategic alliance.”  The program is tied to personalized banking services and is supposed to include media promotions, in-game promotion for multiple sporting events at the school, and interactive marketing.

Last month, the athletic department also unveiled an expansion to that relationship in announcing the addition of the MidFirst Bank Stadium Club (photo above) to its renovations.

The program will provide exclusive accommodations for home games in a “lavish, suite-like experience” that includes reserved outdoor seating, private restrooms, and large flat-screen televisions that will allow club members to keep one eye on other college games around the country.

And we assume anyone can join this club – if they have $2,750 for a season ticket.

It’s expected that MidFirst would have first consideration for the right to brand the stadium’s re-birth.  The bank should be able to afford the price, whatever the school comes up with.  MidFirst is the largest privately-held bank in the state, and one of the largest in the country.

And, after inking the 11-year deal, we have to assume the bank has already met the acceptability criteria.

Now the only question becomes… How are the fans going to handle a name change?

(Artist’s rendering courtesy ASU)