Ceremony acknowledges UA football is advancing

2012-01-20T00:00:00Z 2013-11-13T19:32:51Z Ceremony acknowledges UA football is advancingRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 20, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Today's Arizona Stadium groundbreaking isn't one at all.

Construction crews started working on the $72 million north end zone project Jan. 9, demolishing the old scoreboard and aluminum bleachers and clearing the way for a new foundation. Curious fans have been tracking the construction through a live webcam since then, taking note of every crane and dumpster.

This afternoon's ceremony is, well, strictly ceremonial.

"It's a chance to show Arizona football is moving forward, and it's an exciting day for our football program, our new coaching staff, and our fans and donors," athletic director Greg Byrne said.

Given how long the UA has waited, a party's definitely in order. Athletic department officials have been discussing an Arizona Stadium expansion since the Dick Tomey era, when winning teams - and good feelings - prompted people to think big. Three coaches, two athletic directors and 15 years later, the old stadium is getting the facelift it desperately needs. The project should be completed in time for the 2013 football season.

Here's a look at the north end zone project through the years:

July 2007: UA athletic director Jim Livengood unveils a master plan that includes expanding Arizona Stadium to 70,000 seats and relocating the entire football plant - office, locker rooms and meeting areas - to a new building on the stadium's north side. Livengood, a pragmatist, vows to take his time.

"A lot of people have made mistakes adding seats too early," he says. "So we will proceed with caution. We'll study facilities all over the country and look into what makes the most sense."

November 2009: Arizona alums Jeff and Sharon Stevens donate $10 million, the largest one-time gift in athletic department history, and earmark it for Arizona Stadium expansion. The El Paso couple's gift moves the north end zone project closer to reality. The total cost of construction, $72 million, is announced for the first time.

December 2009: Livengood is told the UA won't extend his contract past spring 2010 and, after interviewing and speaking to a public forum, is named UNLV's new athletic director. Senior associate athletic director Kathleen "Rocky" LaRose replaces Livengood on an interim basis while the UA searches for his replacement.

January 2010: The Arizona Board of Regents approves the stadium's north end zone project, allowing the university to begin raising private funds to pay for it.

March 2010: The UA hires Greg Byrne, a master fundraiser from Mississippi State, as Livengood's full-time replacement. Byrne turns his attention to stadium expansion, and reaches out to big-name donors for help.

Summer 2010: Wildcats coach Mike Stoops shows blueprints of the north end zone project to recruits with hopes of building a young nucleus of players. At least one, defensive end Reggie Gilbert, is impressed enough to verbally commit on the spot.

October 2010: Byrne says he would consider selling the naming rights to Arizona Stadium or the Wildcats' field if it helps defray the cost of renovating the stadium. Stadium naming rights could fetch as much as $1.4 million annually, according to an expert. Renaming the field alone would cost less.

April 2011: The UA announces three gifts totaling $25.5 million have moved the north end zone project closer to groundbreaking. An anonymous couple donates $11 million to the project, while Tucson auto dealer Jim Click vows $2.5 million. The Stevens family, whose $10 million pledge 18 months earlier started the ball rolling, donates another $2 million. Byrne announces plans to debt-service the remaining cost of the project.

November 2011: The UA hires former Michigan and West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez to replace Stoops, who was fired in October with his team mired in a 1-5 start. Rodriguez sells the UA as "a destination place," in part because of the new construction and renewed dedication to football.

Today: Arizona will honor the Stevens family and unveil the name of the formerly anonymous donors at a private reception at the stadium. The north end zone project will be formally renamed in honor of the construction project's biggest benefactors.

Up next: Crews will start building a foundation in the next couple weeks, noisy but necessary work as the project moves forward. The Wildcats will not practice in Arizona Stadium during spring drills, but will play there next fall despite the mess. Fans will notice major changes by the time Arizona hosts its first football game of 2012.

"You'll see the steel go up," Byrne said.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Free Wildcats Sports Newsletter

University of Arizona sports news and blog headlines, delivered daily

I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site consitutesagreement to it's user agreement & privacy policy.

Follow the Arizona Daily Star


Most Popular

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...

Video