Arizona State University plans to tear down a chunk of Sun Devil Stadium — either in stages or all at once — to replace it with a fabric-covered venue.
ASU athletic director Steve Patterson outlined plans Wednesday to rebuild and renovate on the stadium’s current spot in the narrow slot between two buttes.
The renovated stadium could be constructed in two years if the Sun Devils played elsewhere for two years. Or the team could stay in Tempe in the interim if ASU replaced various sections over four or five years.
“We want to make sure we stay on this site,” Patterson said. “It’s an iconic site.”
The stadium’s future has been one of Patterson’s top charges since joining ASU nine months ago as chief operating officer within the athletic department. Patterson, who recently replaced Lisa Love as athletic director, said the university ruled out a renovation project as it sought to compete with other Pac-12 teams.
The conference schools have invested about $1.3 billion in a little more than a decade, and Patterson said a new stadium is required to compete in terms of revenue generation, concessions, seating, restrooms and other amenities for fans and players.
The stadium’s deteriorating state has challenged ASU since at least 2007, when the East Valley Tribune first reported that the university had spent $10 million on structural repairs and that engineers recommended another $45 million of work. ASU estimated another $100 million was needed for non-essential amenities.
The latest renovations have been estimated to cost $300 million. Patterson didn’t reveal a specific dollar figure, but said a more concrete financial plan would be finalized in June. ASU would raise the funds through internal sources, higher ticket prices, bonds, donations and broadcasting rights.
ASU plans to reduce the 73,000-seat capacity stadium to somewhere between 55,000 and 60,000 as it reduces bleacher seating and adds suites in the mezzanine level. The most dramatic new feature would be a white fabric covering to shade the stadium. The stadium would remain partially open to the elements, with an opening to the north to allow a breeze to flow from Tempe Town Lake. The school’s hope is cooler temperatures and moving air allow for more fan comfort, especially during August and September, and allow for more day games in the future.
“What we’re really looking for is shade,” Patterson said. “If you’re sitting in the shade versus out in the sun, you’re going to feel about 15 degrees cooler.”
If ASU rebuilt the stadium at once, the Sun Devils could play at Chase Field or the University of Phoenix Stadium, but Patterson said those options are still being explored, and that he’s hesitant to move because that would make it tougher for the team’s student fan base to attend games.
“That’s probably not the preferred option, but it’s one we’re studying,” he said.
The university wants flexibility with the stadium design so seating and other amenities can change easily to keep pace with whatever trends evolve in the coming decades, Patterson said.
New football coach Todd Graham said the new stadium will boost ASU’s efforts in recruiting, revenue, and motivation of players and staff.
“It just speaks volumes that our program is investing, investing in a program that expects to be champions,” he said.
Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said the updated stadium will transform much of the property around the university. ASU is relying on leasing its property to developers to fund the stadium project, which he said will kick-start new development. Hallman expects the stadium’s new amenities will boost attendance and help surrounding businesses with a new influx of fans.
“The efforts to renew Sun Devil Stadium will definitely improve the fan experience and I hope, as part of that, rebuild ASU’s fan base to the size it was in the 1970s and 1980s,” he said.
The stadium was built in 1958 while two major additions in the 1970s more than doubled its size. Maintenance workers discovered cracks in 2005 that revealed water had seeped through concrete and rusted away support beams. Engineers discovered significant damage had occurred because the stadium’s builders didn’t waterproof the stadium because they assumed water wouldn’t be a problem in the desert.
Engineers calculated future repairs would cost $45 million to $67 million.
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