Desert Financial Arena renovations a priority for new ASU AD

May 24, 2024, 8:33 AM

If there is one area of the new job that Arizona State athletic director Graham Rossini is equipped to handle, it is overseeing potential renovations to Desert Financial Arena, the home of Sun Devils basketball since 1974.

The building is in serious need of updates. Rossini spent more than a decade working for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the special projects and fan experience department.

The question is if those renovations will happen. And if so, when.

While Rossini told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta that he cannot put a timeframe on when construction would begin or end, he added Arizona State is having “daily” conversations about what a refresh of the basketball arena might look like. ASU hopes that it can formalize plans sometime this summer, he added.

“It’s looking at the entire gameday, the entire experience of watching basketball at that arena,” Rossini told Bickley & Marotta. “I get it. I’m 6-foot-5, I’ve sat in those seats. It’s uncomfortable. We need to make some adjustments there. I’m the first one to admit we can be better to accommodate our fans.”

Any physical movement to upgrade the Sun Devils’ basketball facility would be a long time coming.

In 2018, Arizona State University pursued a plan to build a joint project to renovate what was then called Wells Fargo Arena. A hockey venue was to be added to it.

Because of logistical issues and the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the school’s finances, ASU ultimately opted to create a separate arena for the hockey team, the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena. It hosted the Arizona Coyotes for the past two seasons as the NHL franchise sought a permanent home.

Regarding basketball, there has been little action since those plans changed.

Former Arizona State vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson said in 2022 that Desert Financial Arena was in “dire” need of upgrades.

And in 2023, Anderson, who left the position in mid-November, described the arena to azcentral as “tired.”

Arizona State operated the past six months without an athletic director, in part, to restructure how its athletic department operates in the larger structure of the university, ASU president Michael Crow told reporters on Thursday. Crow framed the changes as freeing the athletic department from debt and taking burdens off his new athletic director.

And now with Rossini’s hire official, he has urgency to get the lingering Desert Financial Arena upgrades moving.

“I’m the first one to say there’s a way for us to present our basketball product in a more modern fashion,” Rossini told Burns & Gambo on Thursday. “It’s got great bones, there are some attributes that we can bring out of it but we are very much mindful of the expectation of the fan in today’s day and age and what they want to see from a venue.”

“It needs to be comfortable, it needs to be easy to navigate, it needs to be entertaining. The sound system, the scoreboard, etc. are all areas that we’re looking at. How do we make those improvements that are fan-focused in their mind?”

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