Sun Devil Stadium nearing unveil of Phase II renovations

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                </div>  In little more than two weeks, Arizona State football fans will get a close-up look at what $268 million can buy. Two of the three construction phases of the […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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In little more than two weeks, Arizona State football fans will get a close-up look at what $268 million can buy.

Two of the three construction phases of the major renovation project on the 58-year-old Sun Devil Stadium are expected to be completed in time for the Sept. 3 game when the Sun Devils will open their 2016 schedule by hosting Northern Arizona University.

It has been a long journey since the Pac-12 school began leaking word of the new project back in the early spring of 2012.  On April 4 of that year, renderings of the proposed major facelift were unveiled at an ASU press conference.

The project was introduced as a “reinvention of Sun Devil Stadium,” a marketing term still being used.

The stadium was originally built between two mountain buttes, literally carved out of the desert, and opened on Oct. 4, 1958, with a game against West Texas State.

At the time, the capacity was 30,000.  But expansions over the years increased the seating dramatically, finally settling in at 71,706.  This latest renovation will actually reduce the seating capacity to about 55,000.  Officials reasoned, since average attendance in recent years has been about 50,000, the reduction in seats would be an acceptable trade-off for more comfortable seating and improved amenities.

To that end, bleacher seating on the lower west side and cantilever sections in the upper west section have been replaced with seats with backs and cupholders.  Leg room has also been increased by an average of four inches and arm rests have been added to many seats.

The final phase, which will begin after the season ends, will include an air-conditioned premium seating area on the west side and a new student athletic facility on the north side, which has a completed shell, but no interior build-out. Once the final phase is complete, the entire stadium will be connected and the 360-degree concourse will be a dramatic change from the more-compartmentalized layout of the past.

But for now, the east side of the stadium does not connect to the south end, so game officials are reminding fans to enter from the same side as their ticket.  There is also no access at this time to the lower bowl seating from the field level of the stadium, which means fans will have to load down into the lower bowl from the main concourse level.

Access on the north and south sides of the stadium have also changed, and minor adjustments are anticipated during the course of the season.  But the school has promised plenty of staff at each game to help fans navigate the changes.

The cost of the project has grown considerably since the initial projected price tag was $210 million.  The largest contributor to the increase was the 84,500-square-foot student athletic building.

But fans won’t be thinking about cost increases when they begin experiencing the improved amenities.  Restroom accommodations for both men and women will have doubled by the completion of Phase III and there will be 116 new concession sale points, 250 new televisions, and 11 new elevators.  Before this project, there were no wireless access points, but this season fans will have 432 and another 353 after Phase III is complete.

And let’s not forget the crown jewel, the 48-foot by 113-foot video board.

While it’s a lot of money, which has come from private donations and revenue streams, it’s a necessary cost of staying competitive.  ASU is just doing what is needed to be able to compete successfully in today’s college sports world.

In recent years, Pac-12 schools alone have accounted for over a billion dollars in construction work on athletic facilities.  In-state rival University of Arizona in Tucson is included in that, having invested in a $72 million project that expanded and improved their football stadium and upgraded facilities.

When construction is complete some time next year, Sun Devil fans will once again have one of the nation’s outstanding collegiate football facilities – in a picturesque, mountain-framed setting that is unique among all Division I programs.

All that’s needed now is a winning season that will fill those comfy new seats.