Grand Canyon University will christen its new state-of-the-art, 6,000-seat soccer stadium tomorrow when the men’s team hosts Central Florida.
But that new stadium is just the tip of the iceberg. Nine more athletic facilities are in the works.
The small Christian-based school on the west side of Phoenix is transitioning from playing in Division II to becoming a full-fledged D-I sports program after this season. And now they’re putting the pieces in place to be able to compete at that level.
A 10-year, $1 billion investment in technologies and infrastructure was announced by the school last week. In the first two years of the expansion program, there are 10 new athletic facilities that are expected to be completed.
The ambitious growth project is reflective of the university’s meteoric growth in recent years. In 2008 there were approximately 900 students on campus. This school year, there will be 17,000.
“The additions of new classrooms, laboratories, residence halls, athletic facilities, and other student amenities have not only transformed our campus, but are also having a significant impact on our community as we continue our efforts to revitalize west Phoenix,” said GCU President Brian Mueller.
As GCU begins its final year of a four-year transition period to Division I, they have already proved they can compete at that level. The Antelopes compete in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), where last year’s track & field teams won the indoor and outdoor championships, the men’s tennis team added a regular-season title, and the men’s basketball team finished second last season and went on to advance to the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com postseason national tournament.
The men’s basketball team, coached by former Phoenix Suns player and coach Dan Majerle, has been playing in front of packed gyms since the transition period began in the 2013-14 academic year.
Majerle will be getting a new practice facility, scheduled to open next January. It will include three courts, coaches’ offices, players’ lounge, meeting spaces, film room, and a museum of artifacts from former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo, who has been serving as an advisor to Mueller to help navigate the transition to D-I.
The soccer stadium, which offers 3,000 shaded chairback seats and an all-natural Bermuda pitch, includes team locker rooms, offices, and training room. Located beneath the grandstand is the new Student-Athlete Development Center where staff members can assist the athletes with their degree development and related academic work.
A two-level baseball stadium and 1,500-seat softball stadium are expected to be ready for the 2018 season. The baseball stadium will feature an enclosed press box with two broadcast booths and the press box on the softball field will be equipped for radio and television broadcasts.
Also included in the construction plans are a 47,000-square-foot tennis facility with six hard courts, and a beach volleyball stadium that will have grandstand and grass-berm seating for 1,500.
Last year the school invested $10 million to renovate the former Maryvale Golf Course, located just a few miles from campus, to be used as the home course for the men’s and women’s golf teams. The course was extended to a more-challenging 7,269 yards, and a 22,000-foot clubhouse was added to house a pro shop, restaurant, offices, and team room.
The best part of the expansion project? Taxpayers aren’t on the hook.
Mueller points out that the school, which is a for-profit institution, will be using cash reserves without relying on taxpayer subsidies and without raising on-campus tuition, which hasn’t been increased for the past eight years.
Sounds like a win-win for everybody.
(Artist rendering: GCU Athletics)