Arizona State announced Thursday that it will demolish the north end zone upper deck at Sun Devil Stadium following the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in late December.

“The removal of the north end zone, with its resultant reduction in capacity, will right-size the building and open the upper bowl as it once was,” athletic director Steve Patterson said in a statement. “This will provide a louder, more intimate atmosphere and enhance the gameday experience, further the development along Rio Salado Parkway, and give us additional flexibility for future planning.”

The project is not tied to ASU’s greater Sun Devil Stadium renovation plans, which still have no set timetable. The demolition of the upper-level seating, which includes sections 220-228, will reduce the stadium’s capacity by approximately 5,700 seats, from 71,706 to roughly 66,000.

Sun Devil Stadium has been expanded three times since opening in 1958, most recently in 1992. It is currently the fourth-largest stadium in the Pac-12 (behind the Rose Bowl, The Coliseum and Husky Stadium) and will remain so after the seating reduction.

ASU’s average attendance in 2012 was 59,672, so the reduction will not impact the stadium’s ability to accommodate the average crowd. The athletic department says 348 season-ticket holders will be impacted by the project and will be offered a one-season upgrade for 2014 to lower-level end zone or upper-level sideline seating at the same price they were paying.

The construction may alter the route of the 10th annual Pat’s Run in April, which typically concludes inside Sun Devil Stadium.

ASU is still working on a financing plan for its complete renovation project, which has estimated costs of up to $300 million. ASU is currently negotiating with the city of Phoenix and the Arizona Diamondbacks to play 2015 home games at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix while construction takes place at Sun Devil Stadium. ASU would return to Sun Devil Stadium in 2016 with a further reduced capacity.

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