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When ASU began planning a new home for its Division I hockey team, the concept was much simpler.
“We were contemplating building a smaller arena that was going to be adjacent to Desert Financial Arena,” said Sun Devil Athletics CFO and senior associate athletic director Frank Ferrara. “We were looking at a 3,900-seat arena with an additional 300 standing room, no suites and no clubs.”
Had that initial plan reached fruition, the Coyotes would not be playing at ASU. Just as important, ASU’s newest venue would not have matched the university’s vision for creating sustainable, community assets.
As Ferrara and Oak View Group’s co-chair of facilities, Peter Luukko, sat in a completed suite at ASU’s new multi-purpose arena on Tuesday, they expressed confidence that the final incarnation has achieved all of ASU’s goals.
“We wanted to do something that was going to be the right arena for the next 50 years,” Ferrara said. “We couldn’t afford to build something smaller than 5,000 seats, so we found the site that you’re standing in now that used to be a parking lot, and the result is a 5,000-seat venue with 22 suites, beautiful club areas, and all the bells and whistles that go with a facility of this caliber.
“We’ve been talking for a good few years now about how we could bring this from just a college hockey venue to something much more; something that our community deserves with concerts and family shows and tournaments. Not once did we anticipate that it was also going to be the home for 41 Coyotes games, but with all the work that we put into it, that an NHL team would consider playing in a venue like this is a phenomenal testament to the building and to the team that we put together.”
On Tuesday, PHNX Sports took an exclusive tour of the multi-purpose arena, which will be operable for hockey in October and complete in December. Here are details on some of the areas that we toured. You can gain a visual perspective on these areas by watching the video portion of our tour included on Wednesday’s live show at 11 a.m.
- A 9,500-square-foot hockey team suite includes a dressing room, coaches offices, training, therapy and equipment areas. There will also be a weight room with a mezzanine for cardio equipment. There is an unwritten rule in hockey that anyone entering the dressing room is supposed to avoid stepping on the team logo that is often placed at the center of the room, embedded in the carpet. It’s considered a great affront to the team if you do so, and you will hear about it from players, with some teams taking it to great lengths. ASU coach Greg Powers thinks the whole practice is silly and immature, so rather than creating a potential problem, he solved it by putting the pitchfork on the ceiling.
- There are 20 (16-person) luxury suites, two group suites, 15 loge boxes, a club lounge and 500 premium club seats.
- Seating capacity is 5,001 (closer to 4,700 for Coyotes games as of now). The upper row forms a gold band around the entire bowl. Originally, ASU was thinking about making the bottom row gold, but the visual of the upper row is much better.
- The student section comprises 942 seats for the famed 942 crew.
- The party deck has a capacity of 200.
- The community rink will eventually house most of the youth and adult programs that currently reside at Oceanside Ice Arena.
- A 15,000-foot annex being built by the Coyotes will house Arizona’s and visiting teams’ locker room spaces, training, medical and equipment areas.
Luukko said that when the Coyotes contacted ASU about playing in the arena, the request came on what “was probably the last possible day it could have happened. I mean, it was literally that close.”
Even so, ASU was amenable to the deal with the understanding that it would have priority on all scheduling, and that the Coyotes would pay for all of the necessary upgrades.
“I’ve been involved in the National Hockey League for over 30 years,” Luukko said. “I was in the league when the Lightning played in the baseball stadium in Tampa, when the Senators played in the junior rink while their arena was being built, and when Calgary played at the (Stampede Corral). The beauty of this building is that it’s brand new. It’s a wrinkle obviously that none of us expected but on the other hand, the fact that it’s new means it’s going to be one hell of a temporary place for them to play.
“We have 22 suites, 15 loge boxes, 500 club seats. It’s got all of the amenities of a National Hockey League arena. It’s just a smaller scale. Put the economics and all the politics aside for a moment. In terms of a temporary place for a team to play, it couldn’t be any better. From a visitor standpoint, teams will be staying in Scottsdale and have the opportunity to be in an area that was a lot of fun when the team was originally here in downtown Phoenix. I know that from the National Hockey League and some of the press, there’s a little fear of the unknown, but the situation has presented itself where they have a great place to play until they get a new building built. You’re looking at one of the nicest facilities in North America.”
Ferrara said that the Coyotes partnership added the final piece to the puzzle.
“No building is perfect but if you had asked me before the Coyotes joined forces with us what our weakness was, I would have told you that I really would have liked two more quality locker rooms,” he said. “We have our visitors’ locker room, obviously we have our home suite, but now we’re going to have two other quality lockers that will be left behind. With those, we envision being a perennial host for an NCAA regional. That’s the kind of thing that allows us to do.”
Here are a few more takeaways from my interview with Ferrara and Luukko.
- All of the loge boxes will be used as the main camera angles for the NHL, whereas those camera spots will be one level higher for college hockey.
- ASU will have access to all of the in-game tech that the Coyotes and NHL use, perhaps making their stats and in-game presentation the best in the NCAA.
- The arena will have a history wall to commemorate Sun Devil hockey’s past, including the 2014 national championship club team.
- Colorful Sun Devil hockey equipment manager Jon Laughner will have his own enclosed glass case to display all of the potential ASU uniform combinations. “It will probably change every day,” an ASU spokesperson said, laughing.
- The Coyotes play four home games before their annex will be complete in December (Oct. 28, Oct. 30, Nov. 1 and Nov. 3). PHNX has learned that the NHL and Oakview Group will allow the Coyotes to use ASU’s visiting team room as their dressing room spaces for those four home games. That area is significant, a four-part space with rooms for changing, coaches offices and training.