The Arizona Republic reported a couple days ago on the possibility of ASU baseball sharing facilities with the Cubs at the new Riverview project. The move would give the University some flexibility in regards to other projects, but exactly would this mean for the baseball program? Is this a good or bad move?
First of all, ASU has a facilities crunch. It's been looking to replace or renovate the football stadium, and is looking at potentially $20 million to renovate the baseball facility. Both large projects will require money, time, and space that the University frankly doesn't have in the unforgiving landscape that is Arizona's educational system. Gary Nelson reports that the University would look to redevelop the area around Packard Stadium, using that money to help fund the football stadium project.
So perhaps ASU won't go to the Cubs stadium, but it seems fairly definitive they're going somewhere. Perhaps it's Tempe Diablo, or Phoenix Muni, but the baseball team is on the move. It begs some questions on what that means for the program and University.
What's the cost? The estimated cost to use the Cubs facility will be about $2 million a year. It will likely be similar numbers for the other two Spring Training facilities, and the Riverview project has the advantage of being fairly close.
What about the team? Getting first class weight rooms and training facilities will be a boon to both current players and recruiting efforts. On the other hand, what kind of experience could the stadium provide? Will ASU be able to put up it's championship banners and retired numbers? It wouldn't be that great to play in a place that is very obviously not the home of the team. The Cubs seem open to allowing ASU logos to be used, but it's unclear to what extent.
What's the impact? There's the aforementioned recruiting bonus, but sharing a facility with the Cubs might provide exposure the University might not otherwise get. Depending on the amount of branding and whether the University gets part of the name (which would be ideal), people all over the Midwest would be marketed ASU both on TV and when they travel to Arizona to attend games. Free advertising it better than none, and pulling in out of state students is a goal of every public university.
Overall it seems to be a good deal in principle. If ASU is allowed to brand the facilities, then they'll get an advertising platform that didn't exist before. The new facilities would aid in recruiting, and wouldn't be too far away. It might also help bring the dream of a renovated or new football stadium one step closer. And both projects would help strengthen the athletics of the University without taking away from academics. Depending on the terms, this could be a great deal for ASU.