Arizona State held a press conference on Wednesday to announce a multi-year plan to upgrade Sun Devil Stadium. The stadium was last renovated in 1989 and has fallen behind the other Pacific-12 stadiums. In fact, the other 11 Pac-12 schools have spent over $1.3 trillion dollars on renovations since 1998.
The aggressive remodel is expected to cost around $300 million, although plans are far from being finalized. In fact, the school doesn’t even plan on hiring an architect until June.
The most noticeable part of the preliminary artist renderings is the canvas cover that would shade the fans while leaving the stadium open air.
The initial plans also call for the seating capacity to be reduced from the current capacity of 71,706 to between 65,000 and 55,000. The average attendance last season was right around the 55,000 mark and is a realistic target size.
Most of the seating reduction would be through the removal of the northern upper deck, while more seats would be lost from the installation of wider seats and improved leg room. Also scheduled to be updated or completely rebuilt are the rest rooms, concession stands, press box, suites, premium seating, sound system and video boards. The lower bowl will also be rebuilt and the southern upper deck will be built just 24-feet above the playing surface, which will be artificial turf.
The renovation will take four or five years if the teams continues to play all home games at Sun Devil Stadium. However construction could be completed faster if games are moved to another stadium for one or two years.
The cost would be unaffected by either plan and games would be played at either Chase Field or University of Phoenix Stadium. Moving games to Tuscan is not a viable option.
New head coach Todd Graham is certainly excited about the renovation plans, saying:
This venue will put us at the top of the league. That means a lot to recruits and shows the commitment of the university and the athletic department to winning.
It’s one of the great attractions coming here. This shows we’ve got a dynamic vision here. We want it to be unique to Arizona. This is a very unique place. This is going to be the most visible building on campus and one of the most visible buildings in this state, so it should represent this state in a unique way
Graham, coming from an Pitt which has an off-campus stadium and an apathetic fan base, also wants to make sure that the student section is a focal point of the new stadium, saying:
I’m looking to grow that student section. That’s what dominated (ESPN) GameDay. This facility is going to honor our past. Everything about this project is going to do nothing but enhance recruiting. It’s a big giant step forward in every regard.
Meanwhile, new athletic direction Steve Patterson seems pretty committed to the plan outlined above. While building a new stadium might be cheaper, he was quoted multiple times saying how important it is to keep the stadium between the buttes on campus.
We want to make sure we stay on this site. It’s an iconic spot, one of the iconic spots in all of college football. We want to be close to the student body and be able to honor the heritage and the folks that have worked here for so many years. But we have to operate in a world that is very competitive out there in terms of revenue generation and the kind of fan amenities and athlete amenities that other schools in the Pac-12 have.
I’ll certainly be interested to see how much the plans change once an architect is hired and fund raising kicks in. Arizona State plans to finance the renovation through donations, seat licenses for premium seating, Pac-12 television revenue and possibly bonds. Of course, ticket prices will also see a “moderate” increase.
However, Sun Devil fans shouldn’t be worried that the renovations will bankrupt the athletic department according to Patterson, who said:
We’re going to look at all the other financing options and revenue streams that could support this, but we don’t want to wind up in a situation where we’re house poor. We want to have an economic plan that allows this building to be built and to throw off the kind of revenues we need to drive a first-class Sun Devil athletics department.
Personally I think you will see a reduced plan put into place once a final price tag is announced and revenue generated by fund-raising is known.
I would expect all renovations to be finished for the 2018 or 2019 season as it seems the university would prefer to keep the team playing on campus throughout the process.