Vision for an ‘Athletics District’ 

Improvements Could Amount to $1 Billion

By Steve Rivera

Dave Heeke and the University of Arizona have a longterm vision for the future of Arizona Athletics that comes with a huge price tag on facilities – at Arizona Stadium, at McKale Center and for the rest of what’s being called the “athletics district.”

It’ll take patience, planning and, of course, money, which could be nearly $1 billion. An upgrade to Arizona Stadium in the range of $250 million to $300 million was on track before the COVID-19 pandemic hit more than two years ago. The construction would have had a massive impact on construction jobs, on contractors and for the Tucson economy.

The stadium did get new turf for the upcoming football season – with Arizona’s signature Block A in the middle of the field – at a cost of about $1.6 million. There also is a fresh coat of paint on the west side of the stadium.

“We’re going to dust off the stadium renovation plans that we had created prior to COVID,” said Heeke, UArizona’s VP and director for athletics. “That includes significant modifications to the west side.”

He gave no specifics other than what fans will see during the 2022 football season.

“I can’t really say too much because it’s really coming back to the table, and we’re dissecting a plan that was around it,” Heeke said. “Our effort is just some different options and phases.”

But, he added, UArizona needs to improve the west side grandstand from the ground up which could include additional premium spaces that fans are looking for – a new concourse where there should be ample “support facilities for our fans,” including more restrooms, concessions, a gathering space, entrances and exits. 

Those will come in time, he said, but his plans go well beyond the stadium.

The $1 billion is tied to an ambitious vision to revamp facilities and infrastructure around the “athletics district” at Campbell Avenue and Sixth Street, highlighted by the Arizona Stadium renovation and additional renovations and expansion of McKale Center. Along with the athletic specific projects, the plan envisions creative public-private partnerships to enhance living and retail options throughout the footprint around the area completely transforming the entire district.

“McKale has been stretched,” he said. “I’d love to open it up to have concerts again. It is a major facility.”

The multi-year approach for the area includes retail shops, additional housing for student-athletes and the general student population, and perhaps another sports facility.

“It would include both private and public partnerships, university investment, inspiring partners to come in from the outside to look at what can be done,” he said. 

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