New additions await fans after Arizona Stadium remodel
This summer, Arizona Stadium was the subject of a $25 million facelift, targeting the stadium’s east concourse and seating areas. Where there once sat open space between the pillars, which hold the giant stands full of fans, now rest a row of concessions stands and refurbished bathrooms.
The project is part of an athletic-department-wide $66 million effort that includes upgrades for multiple sports venues and facilities, known as the Capital Improvement Plan.
Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Natalynn Masters, a member of the ZonaZoo, said she was excited to see the new additions since many affect and are geared toward Zoo members. She missed the stadium’s “soft opening” versus BYU.
“When they come to games, whether it be football or whatever, we’re here to provide an experience,” she said.
The new concourse and seating upgrades are part of Phase 1 of the planned Arizona Stadium remodel and will wrap up before Arizona’s next home game against Southern Utah on Sept. 15, according to Thomas Harris, assistant director of marketing for the athletic department.
Phase 2, which will include upgrades to club-level seating also on the stadium’s east side, will begin after the football season.
Director of Athletics Dave Heeke expanded on those changes. During a press conference and lunch in July, Heeke touted some of the new architectural upgrades made inside of the stadium, particularly the new “patio areas” added into the east bleachers, which the ZonaZoo occupies.
“We had a lot of conversation with the architects and the designers,” Heeke said. “I think the students will really like it; it’s just an area they can just kind of hang out. They don’t like to sit down all the time and stay in one location.”
That changing fan behavior is what precipitated many of the changes throughout the remodeled stadium. That’s just smart business, according to Heeke. Gone are the days of students coming and standing in one spot to cheer the entire game.
“Students want kind of a different experience than ‘let’s all go in and rally and sing the fight song,’” Heeke said. “They want to be able to be connected with their phones and devices. They want socializing space; they want to move around.”
During a private tour of the new upgrades at Arizona Stadium, Harris added that changes like more ramps into the stadium, the patio areas and a lower wall separating the playing field from the bleachers do more than just add to the average gameday experience.
“It’s better for our folks in wheelchairs. It makes the stadium more ADA-compliant,” Harris said, pointing out that the patio areas would also be outfitted with furniture for fans to relax and “make it a VIP atmosphere.”
The new additions to Arizona Stadium were made possible by the student athletic fee. The $50-per-semester fee was implemented for each class of undergraduates who have enrolled at UA since 2017 and is expected to raise a total of $3.2 million per year, according to a UA press release.
By using money raised from the athletic fee, along with a $5 million gift from an anonymous donor, the UA was able to gather enough capital to borrow an additional $75 million to fully fund the on-going projects to Arizona Stadium and across athletics facilities, according to a UA press release.
So far, Heeke said feedback from student-athletes and fans alike has been positive. Although some work was unfinished, 51,002 fans poured into Arizona Stadium for the season opener against BYU as was announced at the game.
It was UA’s largest home crowd since 2015.
Still, even with all the new bells and whistles, Heeke said he knows it’s ultimately up to how engaged the students are with the product, both on the field and in the stands.
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