A debut in the desert for stadium makeover
Arizona State has debuted a new east side and concourse at Sun Devil Stadium as part of the latest phase of a $307 million renovation.
“It will feel new when you get in there given the upgrades and the excitement we hope to generate,” said Ray Anderson, ASU athletic director and vice president for athletics.
The new concourse connects the east and west grandstands at the Tempe stadium and integrates into a new north stairway and entry plaza.
“The biggest change for fans is that the main concourse is connecting everything. We’ve now got a really well-defined lower bowl,” said Isaac Manning, project manager for the renovations.
The latest upgrades were unveiled Sept. 1 at ASU’s home opener against the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Construction crews rebuilt the entire east-side grandstands, which includes a new club area, and built a new southeast entry plaza and grassy fan area between the stadium and neighboring Wells Fargo Arena.
Sun Devil Stadium Renovations
Cost: $307 million
Capacity: 55,000 (down from 71,000)
Architects: Gould Evans, HNTB
Construction Manager: Hunt-Sundt Joint Ventures
Latest Phase: $86.6 million for stadium upgrades and $4.95 million for a new plaza outside the stadium
Details: This was the third phase in the overall renovation, which is expected to be completed in 2019 with interior upgrades to club areas. Construction on the latest phase started in November. Architecture firm Dick & Fritsche Design Group and Core Construction designed and built the new southeast plaza next to the stadium.
There are nine new restrooms on the main concourse and six new ones on the club and upper levels on the rebuilt east side. Three new east-side concession stands are on the main concourse and two new locations are on both the upper and premium levels. The stadium received a new sound system, upgraded Wi-Fi, improved seats and a new beer garden. A 6-foot pitchfork statue provides fans with a photo opportunity.
The stadium’s capacity has been reduced from 71,000 to 55,000, partially due to replacing some bleacher seating with individual seats.
Previous phases saw improvements to the west side of the stadium and installation of new scoreboards.
The debut of the latest upgrades didn’t come without hiccups. Fans going to the home opener dealt with long lines and bottlenecks getting into the stadium. The school installed new metal detectors for this season and has a new rule prohibiting fans from re-entering the stadium if they leave.
ASU spokesman Mitchell Terrell said the school plans to have more scanners available at future games to expedite entry, but is still recommending that fans arrive early. The school is reminding students and other fans with mobile tickets to have their devices ready as they approach the gates.
The overall renovation project aims to position the stadium for more events beyond football. “It’s being designed to accommodate a number of uses — classrooms, meeting space, exhibit space,” Anderson said.
A concert series will be held at the stadium starting in October and the venue will be home to the Phoenix franchise of the new Alliance of American Football next year.
The new club space on the east side is open but still needs to go through more interior improvements that will be completed next year. As with the other upgrades, the club area will be positioned to host events other than on game days.
“We will really be able to house up to 500 people,” Manning said of the space. “We don’t have a ballroom on campus that can handle that.”
The stadium also will be home to ASU’s Global Sport Institute and the Pat Tillman Veterans Center. The former is an ASU research venture with Adidas; the latter is a service center for military veterans attending ASU and is named after the late football player who joined the Army after 9/11.
ASU started renovations of Sun Devil Stadium in 2015 after scrapping plans to build a new domed stadium or a canopy cover to mitigate the desert heat. ASU and the state legislature created a real estate development zone on land owned by the school that allows for taxes raised in the zone to go toward funding the improvements. The stadium upgrades originally were pegged to cost $225 million, but the price rose because of added features and fast-tracked construction. Donations helped cover the cost of the latest renovation phase.
“After $307 million, you better be awfully close to having a new stadium and we think we very much are,” Anderson said.