ASU creating urban hub to pay for athletics facilities

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“If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor.”

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Arizona State University revealed Friday the first look at plans to transform 330 acres near downtown Tempe into an urban hub with offices, apartments and a hotel that could potentially bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for athletic facilities during the next two decades.





Among the highlights of the ASU Athletics Facilities District:

– It will include 3.5 million square feet of office space, 2,500 to 3,000 apartments or condos and two hotels.

– The Verde Dickey Dome, ASU’s indoor football facility, will move closer to Sun Devil Stadium.

– None of the names of the athletic facilities will be changed.

– Alternative parking for sports events will be provided when the main lots are disrupted by construction.

The first phase of construction, in the area that currently includes Sun Devil Stadium, parking lots and a golf course, could start later this year, according to ASU officials and the school’s development partner, Catellus Development Corp. The stadium already is under renovation.


PREVIOUSLY:Sun Devil Stadium renovation moving forward

MORE:ASU takes first steps on development near Tempe Town Lake

Money generated from the district, created in 2010 by the Arizona Legislature, will go toward building and revamping ASU athletic facilities, mostly in the area. Developments in the district will pay fees to ASU, instead of property taxes.

“Creating a revenue stream with the district will allow ASU to compete even better in Pac-12 Conference athletics,” said Morgan Olsen, ASU’s chief financial officer. “But that’s only part of this great opportunity because we will be able to also create a walkable urban environment that complements what we already have in downtown Tempe.”

ASU sports fans might have to deal with some short-term parking issues as sports facilities and fields are relocated within the district.

John Creer, assistant vice president of real-estate development at ASU, said the school is very “sensitive to any parking disruptions” for sports events. Officials said parking will be provided in nearby areas that are scheduled for later development.

ASU is projecting the district will create a revenue stream equal to the return on a $750 million endowment.

Development of the district not only will produce revenue to fund ASU athletic capital projects such as renovations of Sun Devil Stadium and Wells Fargo Arena, but it also will change the athletic facilities footprint.

Most significantly, the Dickey Dome and outdoor football practice fields will be relocated from east of Rural Road to the northwestern corner of Rio Salado Parkway and Packard Drive, a short walk from Sun Devil Stadium. This will alleviate the issue of transporting football players via trams across Rural Road for practice.

As part of the $256 million Sun Devil Stadium reconstruction, a student-athlete facility largely to be used by the football team will be built just outside the north end zone with a patio deck as the roof. That building will be within walking distance of the relocated football practice facilities. The football stadium is being redone in three major phases with completion scheduled in fall 2017.

Much of the current parking lots for football games will be lost as the district is developed, some space eventually to be replaced by parking lots for office buildings in the district. Football parking will be fluid, likely changing from season to season during early district development.

Sun Angel Track Stadium and Whiteman Tennis Center, as well as the shuttered Packard Stadium, will be replaced by an office building, housing and a park. Track, tennis and lacrosse — the women’s sport ASU is expected to add in 2016-17 — will relocated east of Rural Road likely next to Sun Devil Soccer Stadium.

ASU plans to build a multiuse arena for men’s hockey, which is becoming a NCAA varsity sport in 2015-16, and some Olympic sports.

The hockey building could be located southeast of Wells Fargo Arena on land that once housed 10 fraternities, or by the other athletic facilities east of Rural Road. Athletic officials plan to remodel Wells Fargo Arena using funds from the district.

The ASU golf teams, as previously announced, will be moving to Papago Golf Course in Phoenix. It’s possible ASU could maintain a golf practice facility on part of the Karsten course, but no decision has been made on this yet. The majority of the golf course will be redeveloped into office space.

About half of the 7 million square feet of development planned for the district will be office space. Most of the rest of the space will be apartments or condominiums, but will not include student housing.

A hotel is planned for the district on a site next to Tempe Town Lake, and retail space is planned throughout the area.

The first phase of the development likely will be office or upscale apartments on the northwestern corner of Rural Road and University Drive. ASU officials say there is already interest from other developers for the site, which is vacant.

ASU and Catellus have been working together to plan the site for the past six months. Officials from both ASU and Catellus are hosting an open house for people to comment on the plan 6 p.m. Tuesday at Gallery 100 in Tempe.

“The district is the most strategically located development opportunity in the Valley,” said Brian Kearney, senior development manager for Oakland-based Catellus. “There aren’t many locations like this in country, where we have the opportunity to create a world-class urban community.”

ASU Vice President for Athletics Ray Anderson said in a statement that the district and its capacity to generate revenue typifies the progressive thinking for which ASU has become known.

“The development of the district will create a sustainable revenue stream necessary to support and invest in championship-caliber facilities for our 23-plus athletics programs and will benefit our 550-plus student-athletes,” he said.

ASU is not the first U.S. college to redevelop around a campus to boost revenue or to help a community.

Tom Murphy, a senior fellow with the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute and former mayor of Pittsburgh, cited several recent examples, including:

– The University of Pennsylvania bought properties in a blighted Philadelphia neighborhood and turned them into housing for professors and students.

– The University of Florida partnered with Orlando to buy 7,000 acres for new facilities, including a medical school.

“As state legislatures cut spending for higher education, it’s a growing trend for universities to find other sources of revenue such as real estate,” Murphy said. “ASU’s leadership is very forward-thinking, and their plans for the 330 acres in Tempe are entrepreneurial.”

USA Place update

ASU still wants to put a hotel and conference center on property near University Drive and Mill Avenue, formerly proposed for a $436 million project known as USA Place that was to have included USA Basketball.

That project stalled in January when ASU said it had ended negotiations with developer Concord Eastridge.

The 10.7 acres proposed for USA Place are not part of the ASU Athletic Facilities District, 330 acres near Tempe Town Lake that will be developed to raise funds for athletic department capital projects.






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