TEMPE, Ariz. — Sun Devil Athletics chief of staff Rocky Harris pronounced Phase 2 of the Sun Devil Stadium renovation 99 percent complete on Tuesday. Based on what local media members saw on a tour of ASU’s football stadium, the university deserves applause for a job well done.
While some concessionaires still need to move in, and the school must cross some Ts and dot some Is, the overwhelming impression is of an iconic stadium reborn. The seats on the west side of the stadium are a major upgrade, there is more leg room, there are better sightlines, there are more bathrooms, there are more areas for fans to congregate and with 20-foot high concourses, the entire stadium feels airier and roomier, with panoramic views of the Valley available to the north, west and south.
“As you walk through it you notice distinct differences from what was built in 1958, enhanced in 1978 and improved again in 1988,” Harris said. “This is not that type of change. This is a complete transformation of the facility.
“We thought about each of our fans and tried to improve their experience regardless of how much they paid for their seats.”
Sun Devil Stadium has an incredible history that includes four college football national championships (1988, 1996, 1999, 2003) a Super Bowl (1996), 35 Fiesta Bowls, a Papal visit (1987), President Barack Obama’s commencement address (2009) and a starring role in movies such as “Jerry Maguire,” U2’s 1988 rockumentary “Rattle and Hum,” and The Rolling Stones’ 1983 concert film “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”
Despite that history, the stadium had fallen unto disrepair over the past decade-plus, necessitating some major upgrades. For Phase 2 of the renovation, the entire lower bowl on the west side was scraped down as well as 70 percent of the upper deck, after the entire north section upper deck was removed last year.
The cascading staircase at the southwest entrance is complete, the new suites and club-level seats are a vast improvement for big-time donors and the skeleton of the 115,000 square foot student-athlete facility at the north end is also taking shape and will eventually house the team’s locker room and many other team-oriented facilities.
“Trying to preserve some of the old structure and reinforce it and then build around it was very challenging,” ASU Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson said. “We were doing some digging and all of the sudden there was more substance and depth and breadth to the digging than we had anticipated but they got through it in good shape.”
When Phase 3 (the final phase) of renovation is complete before the 2017 season, the total cost is estimated at $268 million.
“You can never have anticipated all that at the end of the day goes into this — all the people that work, all the cooperation you have to have, all the dedication of the workers and the folks who put this together. It’s a massive team effort.”