TEMPE, Ariz. — You can pore over the facts and numbers until your brain goes numb. Until you’ve experienced the newly renovated portion of Sun Devil Stadium firsthand, you can’t possibly grasp the magnitude of change at the Valley’s most iconic building.
The seats are better, the legroom is better, the sight-lines are better, and the concessions will be better. Heck, even the restrooms are better and more plentiful.
All that will become clear the moment the gates open for Arizona State’s first football game of the season on Sept. 3 vs. Northern Arizona.
What can’t be quantified with stats or measurements, however, is the feel you get while walking up the cascading staircase at the new southwest entrance, or the panoramic Valley views you enjoy while walking across the 20-foot-high concourses and the new sun deck, or the breeze that flows through the open spaces so much more freely than it did in the old, dimly lit, dungeon-like halls that passed for common areas.
Sun Devil Stadium may not come with every bell and whistle available in modern stadiums. Those amenities cost even more money than this $268 million project. There is also a practical reality about breezes when you’re watching September football games in Arizona. It’s going to be hot.
But when you gaze across the field to the un-renovated, bleacher-bound, eastern portion of the stadium that will be addressed in Phase III, the stark contrast between the old and the new is impossible to miss and impossible not to appreciate.
“I feel pride in a project that will completely reinvent the way our fans experience a game day at Sun Devil Stadium,” Sun Devil Athletics Chief Operating Officer Rocky Harris said. “As you walk through it you notice distinct differences from what was built in 1958, enhanced in 1978 and improved again in 1988. This is not that type of change. This is a complete transformation of the facility.”
As we noted in May, 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 their stadium 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 even considering an airport model to bring local restaurants and better quality food options as well.
“We want a community asset that’s going to be much more than just being able to play eight or 10 wonderful football games,” ASU Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson said. “That sense of sharing with the community and having this be a full-time venue is very exciting.”
That all sounds great, and it seems fitting that such an archive of Valley history should become a year-round, community gathering spot. As that future unfolds, it will also be nice to finally stand inside a structure whose current offerings match its remarkable past.