ASU AD says naming rights deal ‘certain’ for Sun Devil Stadium

Arizona State vice president for athletics Ray Anderson said Wednesday 'there will certainly be a naming rights deal' for renovated Sun Devil Stadium.

TEMPE, Ariz. — The possibility of a naming rights deal for Sun Devil Stadium — currently in the early stages of a large-scale renovation — has been confirmed more than once in the past few months, but it appears now possibility has turned to inevitability.

"There will certainly be a naming rights deal," Arizona State vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson said Wednesday. "There will be a naming rights process as part of this stadium (renovation) and the fund raising."

A timeline for any such naming rights deal remains unclear, with renovations planned through at least 2017. ASU could be waiting for new associate vice president and chief business development officer Greg McElroy to handle the process.

McElroy, who officially begins work at ASU on June 3, spent the last eight seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and negotiated a naming rights deal that rebranded Cowboys Stadium as AT&T Stadium for a reported $17 million to $19 million per year.

Selling the naming rights to Sun Devil Stadium could mean the end of  Sun Devil in the stadium’s official name. ASU does not have the option to sell naming rights to the field at Sun Devil Stadium, as it is already named for legendary coach Frank Kush.

In January, ASU announced renovation plans for the 56-year old stadium backed by a $210 million university investment. The plans also included a campaign to raise an additional $50 million through private donations.

Anderson said he could not yet disclose specific information about those efforts but did say ASU will soon announce an architect and builder for the project and that fundraising efforts have been successful beyond expectations.

"Our fundraising, particularly from private donors and alums is, frankly, going quite well," Anderson said. "I don’t think, I know we will meet and surpass the initial goals we set for ourselves."

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As ASU continues to explore new methods of generating revenue, the naming rights of other venues will apparently be on the table as well.

"Naming rights for all of our venues, at the end of the day, will come up for discussion," Anderson said.

Naming rights to ASU’s basketball arena have been owned by Wells Fargo since 1997. ASU could look soon to sell naming rights to Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the former spring training venue that ASU’s baseball team will call home beginning next season.

Senior administrator Rocky Harris, recently promoted from senior associate athletic director to chief of staff for Sun Devil Athletics, updated the unfolding process of the baseball team’s move to Phoenix Muni from historic Packard Stadium.

Harris said ASU is working with architectural firm Gould Evans to determine the scope of the project. Already planned are the installation of a video board, updating of team clubhouses and rebranding the facility as an ASU venue.

"We’re willing to invest a lot of money and resources," Harris said. "It’s really coming mostly through philanthropy, and Ray has provided some support from the department as well."

Harris said the Sun Devils might be able to move into the stadium for its fall schedule.

Harris also addressed the pending management deal between ASU and the City of Phoenix in regard to Papago Golf Course. The final points are being worked out on a 30-year deal that would see ASU manage the municipal course and base its men’s and women’s golf teams there.

Among the desired projects at Papago are construction of a new clubhouse costing between $3 million and $5 million, a new access road and basic improvements to the grounds.

"Our vision is to make it the Torrey Pines of Arizona, a public golf course everyone has to go to," Harris said.

ASU plans to close and redevelop Karsten Golf Course to make way for the planned 425-acre athletics district. Harris said ASU plans to maintain an on-campus practice facility for the golf teams and also hopes to keep the Karsten clubhouse and restaurant open.

In a meeting with local media in the clubhouse of ASU’s Karsten Golf Course, Anderson addressed a range of additional topics. Among the other notable items:

— Anderson expressed support for the Pac-12’s decision to move the Pac-12 football title game to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., beginning next year. While critics have raised concerns of fan accessibility and attendance, Anderson said the decision makes sense financially and eliminates potential infrastructure deficiencies that could arise if the game were played in a Pac-12 city like Tucson or Pullman, Wash. Anderson said he might push for Sun Devil Stadium to be a host site for the game once renovations are complete and the Pac-12’s deal with Levi’s Stadium is up.

— ASU plans to announce a few more senior staff additions in the next few weeks.

— Anderson envisions ASU eventually offering "all the varsity sports everyone else plays." He acknowledged the challenges presented by Title IX, which mandates equal opportunity for male and female athletes, but insisted adding multiple new sports is possible and pointed to Stanford — his alma mater — as a model. Stanford currently has 36 varsity sports to ASU’s 20. "If they can do it, we can do it," Anderson said.

— Anderson said he’s "very confident" AT&T’s pending acquisition of DirecTV will lead to the addition of the Pac-12 Networks to DirecTV’s offerings "sooner rather than later." The Pac-12 Network is already offered on AT&T cable services.

— Of NCAA changes proposed by the Pac-12 recently, Anderson said he’s confident within the next few years schools will offer scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance and that the five "power" conference will achieve autonomy.

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