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Sun Devil Stadium renovations taking shape

TEMPE, Ariz. — The second and most extensive phase of Sun Devil Stadium’s renovation is about three months from completion. Even when the final phase is complete in another year, however, Sun Devil Athletics Chief of Staff Rocky Harris wants fans to think of the stadium as an ever-evolving destination.

“We are going to have a top-notch stadium when the reinvention project is complete in 2017,” said Harris, who witnessed a similar transformation at BBVA Compass Stadium after he helped initiate the construction of that venue as Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo and AEG Global Partnerships. “We built the venue to be able to accommodate future enhancements like shade and building out spaces within the stadium.

“I can see the same things happening here at ASU, but we are better positioned because of the wealth of knowledge and expertise we can tap into at the university to make the appropriate enhancements. An example of something that could be done is asking the students from the Herberger Institute to take an unused blank space within the stadium and turn it into an interactive display for children.”

With three and half months left until the Devils’ season opener on Sept. 3 against Northern Arizona, the focus is on more immediate benchmarks. On Tuesday in Harris’ sixth-floor office at the Carson Student-Athlete Center, tangible signs of progress were visible amid the swarming construction crews, equipment and the vast expanse of dirt that was once Frank Kush Field.

The shell of the 115,000 square foot student-athlete facility at the north end is taking shape. The cascading staircase at the southwest entrance is underway, and everywhere you look, the surrounding desert landscape and community is visible in an airier, more picturesque version of this 58-year-old Valley icon.

Phase 2 is currently scheduled for completion sometime in the third week of August, but Harris said work on the field and other areas will start before then. Among the accomplishments in this phase:

— The entire lower bowl on the west side had been scraped down as well as 70 percent of upper deck, and crews have laid down all the new sections.

— Additional old sections of the upper deck have been removed after the entire north section was removed last year.

— There will be a sun deck on the north side for fans to gather.

— The new concourses are 20 feet high, allowing for more air flow in the stadium.

— Brand new restrooms, concessions and vertical escalation.

— Crews have added a police/security station and another first-aid station.

— WiFi and other connectivity features will be upgraded in the new sections.

— One area that won’t be complete at the end of Phase 2 is the club level, which will have seating and portable food options, but won’t have the cooling system or other permanent amenities until after the season.

Harris said crews are working 18 hour-days six days a week, and 12 hours on Sundays to complete the second phase of the $256 million total project. Phase 3 will include completion of the student-athlete facility’s interior, the addition of a video board at the north end, reconstruction of the entire east side and the southeast and north entrances.

“It’s really special for me as someone who grew up coming here with both parents as alums,” he said. “When it was first built, it really changed the perception of the school.

“When you think of ASU you think of Sun Devil Stadium but for the last 30 years, little to nothing has been done. Until now, it really didn’t represent what this university has become: innovative, forward thinking and technologically advanced.

“The old structure was antiquated so now we are catching up with the university and it will be a great visual asset for ASU — one that the university will utilize for a lot more than just football games.”

ASU is pushing the stadium concept into new territory with plans to transform it into a year-round community hub. Many stadiums plug in occasional programming, like concerts, but ASU wants theirs open daily to draw crowds for everything from movies and festivals to a midday Frisbee game or lunch from the concession stands run by local restaurants. The department is considering an airport model to bring local restaurants and better quality food options as well.

Harris said many of the basic amenities that fans have asked for have been addressed in everything from handrails, more leg room, actual seats in many sections and modernized restrooms.

“We want to make the full experience something that resonates with fans and makes them want to come back,” Harris said. “You don’t necessarily have to have all the amenities and accoutrements of pro sports facilities to accomplish that objective. Our primary goal is to bring it up to today’s standards, make it unique to collegiate athletics and ASU, and build a stadium that can be fully utilized by the university and community for the next 70 years.”

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