These days, the end of the regular sports season marks the beginning of the construction season. At least that’s the case at the state’s two Pac-12 schools.
Over the weekend, both Arizona State and University of Arizona kicked off a couple of high-profile projects designed to help the schools’ major athletic programs attract the kind of talent needed to continue building their national profiles.
Arizona just completed a major expansion of its football stadium, adding 187,000 square feet that is dedicated to the football operations. The Lowell-Stevens football facility expanded and enhanced seating for the fans, added a new concourse level to the stadium, and provided players with new space for upgraded strength and conditioning equipment, locker rooms and lounges, auditorium and lobby areas, and coaches’ offices.
Now it’s basketball’s turn, as the renovations got underway Saturday for McKale Center where the men’s and women’s teams hold court. The school received approval earlier this month to begin the $30 million phase of renovations that will provide new seating, upgraded lighting, a video room for the players, a new floor, and an enlarged video board above the court.
The new floor is expected to be down in time for the start of next season and the video board, 25% larger than the current one, is scheduled to be in place by the time the Pac-12 season gets underway. This first phase of work is part of what will eventually be an $80 million project that will include improvement and possibly enclosure of the outside concourse.
Along with construction, of course, comes inconvenience. The entire arena bowl and the upper outside concourse areas and doors will be closed until sometime in mid-November.
And Rich Rodriguez will get a few more goodies for his football program as the school plans to add an auxiliary video board since some fans have complained about not being able to see the immense new board. A 36’x20′ board will be added in the northwest corner of the stadium, to go along with a new distributed antenna system that will improve cellular service throughout the stadium. A network of 332 antennas will be located throughout the facility, producing 20 sectors, each with the capacity equivalent to one cell tower.
Across the state in Tempe, the major project for ASU has yet to begin, but some much-needed renovation work is underway on Sun Devil Stadium ahead of the major construction that will pour as much as $300 million into a facelift for the 56-year-old icon nestled between two mountain buttes. That project, since it will have to be done in phases and depends on the progress of fund-raising efforts underway now, could take 3-5 years to complete.
But the administration invited the media out over the weekend to officially kick off construction that will be done now on the north end zone as the upper deck is removed and seats are eliminated right down to the loge level. A temporary shade structure will be added over the loge area and fans have been promised a view all the way out to the Tempe lake when it’s all done. The demolition process should take about three weeks.
The north end zone renovation is not tied directly to the overall renovation project and the money to complete the project is being funded through what the school calls “auxiliary money” that is not part of the major fund-raising effort. That job is expected to begin following the 2014 football season.
All of this construction activity on both campuses is about one primary goal… better recruiting.
“The bottom line is, it shows a commitment (by the school),” explained ASU head coach Todd Graham, who is just two season into the job. “In the recruiting process, obviously I think the number one thing a player is looking for is from an educational standpoint. From a football standpoint, they want to be at a place where they can win championships.”
He points out that “kids are very visual…our whole deal is about having a program that has facilities that looks like a place where champions reside.”
And so continues the facilities arms race in college athletics – Arizona-style.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)