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Arizona looking to build ‘whole new experience’ on west side of football stadium

Washington v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats have been on a building spree in recent years, with this year alone seeing the opening of an indoor practice facility and a complete overhaul of softball’s Hillenbrand Stadium.

But the next project could be the school’s most ambitious.

Athletic director Dave Heeke said Saturday that Arizona is looking at options for a major renovation to the west side of Arizona Stadium.

“The goal is to probably completely tear down the west side and build a whole new experience on that side,” Heeke said prior to the football team’s spring game. “We’ve looked at a lot of options. We’re in the midst of trying to finalize a more concrete plan, what we can accomplish here, and what the price tag would be.”

Arizona Stadium, built in 1929, has gone through several renovations since 2013. The most notable was a complete rebuild of the north end zone, where the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility is located behind and above an upgraded lower bowl and new luxury seating.

The east side of the stadium has also been spruced up, with upgraded seating in the mezzanine and a completely revamped student section including a dedicated Zona Zoo entrance underneath.

Among the goals for the west side, Heeke said, are “more premium seating, obviously huge upgrades underneath the stadium and in the concourse areas. Carry what’s on the north side with the Lowell-Stevens around onto the west side.”

The project would take two years from start to finish, Heeke said, though no timetable currently exists for when work would begin.

“We’re in the midst of trying to coordinate some fundraising,” he said. “Once we break ground it would happen over two seasons. I don’t want to put it on a timeline, but it’s an A priority for us.”

Arizona averaged 45,436 fans last season for football, up 6.5 percent from a year ago but down more than 11 percent from 2015. That dip is part of a nationwide trend in college football, something Heeke attributes to fans having competition for their discretionary spending as well as the ease of being able to watch games at home.

“We’re in competition with television, we’re in competition with that experience they can have at home, on the couch,” he said. “There’s nothing that can replace being here live and experiencing what we have, the traditions, the enthusiasm and excitement. We’ve got to make it important for them to be inside our stadiums.

“People want more than just a seat and a parking pass, they want an experience inside the stadium. More premium opportunities, more flexibility for people to walk around, really vibrant concourse areas.”