Arizona State head football coach Todd Graham and construction team members lead a media tour of the new football building being built in the north end zone of Sun Devil Stadium on Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
Todd Graham’s on-field legacy as Arizona State football coach is still being determined.
But Graham’s vision of what the football program’s new home at Sun Devil Stadium should be will stand the test of time for the not just the rest of his tenure, but many coaches to come.
Graham, going into his sixth season at ASU, led a tour Wednesday of the 118,669-square-foot building at the north end of the stadium that football will move into this summer. Though the east side of the stadium reconstruction was postponed until after the 2017 season, completion of the still unnamed student-athlete facility is arguably the central piece in elevating ASU football to a higher level. Graham said the building is a “game-changer” for his team.
No previous ASU football coach has had the resources Graham will have at his disposal with the football building as part of a $268-million stadium renovation and plans to eventually move the indoor practice facility and outdoor grass practice field to within walking distance of the stadium.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a chance to do this,” Graham said. “A lot of great donors and supporters have provided this for us. When I came, we knew we were behind and we needed to do some things. We wanted to put ourselves in position where we could build something special and build a championship-caliber program. I’ve never been at a place where you actually got to have input on every single area so it actually operates the way you want it to operate. That’s what is going to be really special about this place. We put a little thought into this thing.”
The facility is divided into lower training and upper teaching levels. The main glass entrance on the north side of the stadium will include a Hall of Fame display and is next to a 9,813-square-foot weight room, above which is a 1,924-square-foot deck for cardio training.
“The weight room being right up front, we wanted as people walked in to know what is important to us,” Graham said. “We wanted to have an entrance from a recruiting standpoint and when you walk in you know this is a place that has sound principles on training and also it’s pretty unique and innovative,” with some wood accents for a desert feel.
The 5,750-foot locker room will include lockers like those used by the Dallas Cowboys and a video wall. On game day, the Sun Devils will exit into a new Tillman Tunnel, going past a gathering of former players and a statue of Pat Tillman as they enter into the stadium.
“This is the players’ sanctuary,” Graham said. “It’s a sacred place. We wanted to create a space where before the game our former players would come in the locker room and develop an atmosphere of who the players represent. It’ll create an incredible game-day atmosphere.”
The area just outside the locker room will be branded to create “a museum of ASU football,” Graham said.
Other features on the lower level include a 5,347-foot training table, plunge pool with a waterfall feature that will hold 30 players, players lounge, barber shop, nutrition bar, 5,387-foot sports medicine area and stadium operation areas including a kitchen for stadium concessions and loading dock.
The upper level lobby features a display of ASU’s history in the NFL located next to recruiting and coaches offices and academic area. There are meetings rooms for all position groups, plus offense and defense as a whole and a 167-seat auditorium for the full team.
Graham said projection technology will allow players to watch life-size video and that there will be enough space in meeting rooms for players to do walk-through practice of skills being taught.
“I can run blitzes at them and they can stand there and pick up the blitzes in the meeting room with low impact on their body, not out in the heat,” Graham said. “We’ve got to maximize our time because we have 20-hour rules we have to adhere to. Technology is a huge piece in that. There won’t be more innovative teaching facility that I know of anywhere.”
The roof of the football building is a sun deck that was open to fans during the 2016 season. That is also where a 180-foot by 60-foot video board (with 60-foot by 20-foot speakers) will be installed in time for the season opener Aug. 31. There also is a north terrace area that will include premium seating and a room overlooking the stadium where recruits and their families will meet with Graham at the end of their visit.
“We think it leaves a pretty strong impression,” Graham said of the so-called closing room. “Most places will have that in the head coaches office. I wanted an area where we could really make it a family atmosphere and project the last opportunity we’re going to get on an official visit to make an impression.”
As stadium project representative, Isaac Manning has worked for three years with Graham and construction companies on the renovation of Sun Devil Stadium, built in 1959. He said the football building will be turned over by the contractor in late May. Then comes furniture, weights, branding and graphics. “We’ve still got a ton of work to do, but we’ll be fully up and operational,” for coaches to move in by mid-July followed by players after their trip to Camp Tontozona in early August, Manning said.
“The hard stuff they’ve already gotten done,” Manning added. “The Hunt-Sundt (construction) team has done a great job working with us and making sure all this stuff happens. I’m really confident in their ability to deliver when they say they’re going to deliver and for us to have a natural migration so we’re not panicked and doing stuff at the last minute.”
Football offices now on the third floor of the Carson Center at the south end of the stadium will be converted into a large academic center for all athletes.