When passing by Sun Devil Stadium in recent months, one couldn't help but notice more men wearing hard hats than football helmets. Shoulder pads and tackling dummies have been replaced by cranes and drills as Sun Devil Stadium began its facelift.
Over the past eight months, construction crews have been tirelessly working on renovations to the home of ASU football. On Tuesday morning, Vice President of Athletics Ray Anderson invited the media into the south end zone, as Phase I of construction nears completion.
Fans in the south end zone will trade wooden stairs for newly-constructed concrete stairs and walkways. (Photo by Ryan Bafaloukos)
"We want to have facilities that will entice student-athletes in all sports to want to come to Arizona State University," Anderson said. "We are not going to be luxurious, we are not going to be extravagant but we want to have a facility that states what we have been saying, which is 'we want to be an elite, top-5 program and we want to win championships.' Quite frankly, student-athletes who have choices want to see that you have invested in that."
With Phase I adjustments, stadium capacity had been reduced from over 70,000 to 64,248. The expected capacity when all three phases renovations are completed is around 59,000. Sections of the north and south end zone upper deck have been removed and 6.500 bleacher seats have been placed in the south end zone, with the entire lower bowl of the stadium now tied together instead of the south end zone being separated.
The entire lower bowl of Sun Devil Stadium is now tied together, instead of the south end zone being separated. (Photo by Ryan Bafaloukos)
The student-section has been moved from behind the ASU bench, to both the north and south end zones, creating a "Double Inferno" aimed at creating a louder atmosphere for opponents.
"One of the things that was most important was putting the students first. Phase I is part of our 'Devil Inferno,'" Anderson said. "There are a lot of upgrades to that area."
Students will have their own private entrances and exits as well as new restrooms and concessions in the south end zone. An additional 98 toilet fixtures have been added in the south end zone as apart of Phase I construction.
"The amenities for students, the private entrances and exits, the dedicated restrooms and concessions, a student lounge area are pretty cool from what they (student-leaders) have told me," Anderson said. "All of the student tickets are in the lower bowl. That is pretty unique."
Additional restrooms and concession stands have been added underneath the south end zone. (Photo by Ryan Bafaloukos)
Another unique aspect to the stadium is the fact that it is being build entirely from donations and fundraising efforts from the Arizona State community. The goal was set as $85 million, and Anderson said they have raised $45.3 million so far.
"As for fundraising, $85 million was to be raised for this project through donations and ultimately through premium suite and seat sales," Anderson said. "There is no student tuition or student fee money going to this project, there is no taxpayer money going to this project.
"My personal goal is to have the fundraising completed by the end of the 2016 season."
The view from the Tillman Tunnel underneath the south end zone. (Photo by Ryan Bafaloukos)
Most of the changes made during Phase I of the renovations fans are not able to see. Improvements have been made to the plumbing and electrical systems in the stadium. Technology inside the stadium has been improved and new elevators were installed within the past eight months.
"It's going to be an upgraded experience. One of the things that we really wanted to do is upgrade the gameday experience and amenities," Anderson said. "A lot of the upgrades for fans are behind the scenes stuff, plumbing, electric, more concessions, more restrooms, things to improve the fan experience."
More than 3,000 feet of underground sewer systems and storm drain were installed, with the project using 500 tons of steel and 3,000 cubic yards of concrete.
While there were still some workers mulling around Tuesday morning, renovations will be completed by Saturday, when ASU opens its home slate against Cal Poly. Anderson is asking the fans to be patient, especially early in the season.
"What you guys (the fans) have to be is a partner with us in this experience," Anderson said. "Be patient, come early and make sure you go online and see the best routes to and from you seats."
You can find that information right here.
Ray Anderson asks fans for patience when they enter the stadium on Saturday. (Photo by Ryan Bafaloukos)
One question Anderson did not have an answer for was who is going to be a potential naming rights partner. The plan is for a naming rights holder to be in place when "new" Sun Devil Stadium opens in 2017.
"We are going through a deliberate thought process as to who potential naming rights folks would be," Anderson said. "In terms of the timing, I can't really pinpoint that. The stadium won't open in its full capacity until 2017, so certainly we have some time."
Renovations are far from completion. Phase II will begin after ASU plays its final home game this season on Nov. 21. Phase II will concentrate on the north end zone and west side of the stadium. The work will include further demolishing of upper deck seating.
Crews will work on a new main concourse, premium seating and the beginning of the new Student Athlete Facility on the north end of the stadium.
"There is an enthusiastic sense of anticipation and we expect great things when we are finished," Anderson said. "That said, if you've ever lived in your home while you did a renovation project you know that it is a process that calls for patience and short-term sacrifice for long-term benefit."