Sun Devil Stadium project begins the hunt for donations

  It’s beginning to feel like the big renovation of Sun Devil Stadium is actually going to happen. Almost two years have passed since Arizona State rolled out the first […]


It’s beginning to feel like the big renovation of Sun Devil Stadium is actually going to happen.

Almost two years have passed since Arizona State rolled out the first rendering of the massive project that may take as much as $300 million to complete.  But workers have been busy removing seating from the stadium’s north end zone, so reality is beginning to set in.

The seat removal is not tied directly to the overall renovation project, but it shows activity.  Money for the north end-zone project, which will give the school some flexibility in its future planning, is being funded by “auxiliary money” that will not be part of the major fund-raising effort.

And that big fund-raising drive is beginning at the same time the upper deck seating is being demolished, so it provides the media with some visual opportunities to go along with the recent announcement for the fund-raising kick-off.  The public campaign is expected to raise $50 million in private donations, to go along with the $210 million committed by the university.  ASU officials are quick to point out that taxpayer money will not be involved in the appeal to the public.

The $50 million is needed, according to the media release, to complete a “full renovation” that will include upgraded amenities to enhance the fan experience.”  As ASU President Michael Crow explains it: “We will need philanthropic support from our community in order to provide features that will take the game experience to a new level.”

And, he should have added, make the stadium an even better recruiting tool for the coaches.

The actual construction on the major renovation work is scheduled to begin about this time next year, following the 2014 football season.  Firm estimates on its completion haven’t been released, but it’s estimated the project could take three to five years to complete since it is being done in stages and the ASU football team will continue using it during the regular season.

Until recently, consideration was being given to moving the home football games to Chase Field in downtown Phoenix for at least the 2015 season.  But it was decided by the administration that moving games off-site would negatively impact the game-day experience.

And there has also been a recent significant change in the renovation project itself, as the new designs no longer include the canopies that were going to be built over most of the structure, giving the original architectural renderings an eerie spaceship-like appearance.  The benefit of the shade they would have provided lost out to the ability to continue setting off fireworks after Sun Devil touchdowns.

Unlike most schools that renovate their stadiums to add seats, this project will actually reduce the number of seats from 71,706 to about 60,000.  The idea is to be able to add more leg room for the fans, more restrooms, and a mezzanine level that will offer plush clubs and suites to pull in more corporate money.

Since the average attendance has been about 55,000 in recent years, planners figured they could put that unused space to better use.  So now fans will enjoy more comfortable seating with seats and benches with backs, a huge video board, new scoreboard, and improved sound system.

Sun Devil Stadium has been expanded three times in the last half century, but there has never been much consideration to tearing it down and building something new.  This time was no different, and head football coach Todd Graham explains why:

“Sun Devil Stadium is the cornerstone of the legacy and tradition of Arizona State Football.  It was important to keep intact that same tunnel that Pat Tillman ran onto the field from on game day.  This venue will blend that tradition with all the elements of a top-tier facility and put us at the top of the league.”

The iconic structure, built in 1958 between two mountain buttes, has hosted the Super Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and NFL games.  And few people are aware that the facility was also used in the 1996 movie, “Jerry Maguire”, which spawned a catch-phrase that has become an enduring mantra: “Show me the money!”

Now, Crow and Graham are asking the Sun Devil community to do the same.