An ongoing pandemic. problems in the supply chain. The addition of an NHL tenant.
Outside factors threatened the timeline for completing Arizona State’s multi-purpose arena, and it seemed hard to believe that ASU hockey would drop the puck for its first game there on Oct. 14.
However, those who planned the arena did not anticipate the arena’s rapidly changing schedule, which has resulted in the original play date being pushed back from December to October.
They had a backup plan to start the ASU hockey season at Oceanside Arena, where they played, knowing that it would not be easy to accelerate a project that would include a 5,000 seat arena for hockey, wrestling and women’s gymnastics, as well as concerts and other events.
“We expected our first series to be at Oceanside and it will be a bye,” said Frank Ferrara, Sun Devil Athletics CFO. We’ve adapted and started moving our games that were supposed to be played at Oceanside here.”
One of the biggest challenges during construction came when the Arizona Coyotes asked if they could join the project as a temporary home while their new arena in Tempe was built. After the Coyotes signed a multi-year contract with ASU in February, it was up to the architects and contractors to figure out how to transform the smaller venue into a building fit for the NHL.
“We’ve started to grow the sport of hockey at the collegiate, youth and adult levels. I think it’s absolutely fantastic that we can support an NHL franchise and they will look to this as a temporary home for a number of seasons,” Ferrara said.
The building required a locker room and training arena suitable for the NHL, separate from the locker rooms used by the NCAA teams. The annex, which is 185,000 square feet by 15,000 square feet, is outside the arena and began construction in February. The finished product will feature two locker rooms and training rooms used for pre-game routines.
The addition will be the last remaining piece of the NHL upgrades the arena needs, but the Coyotes will avoid a long road trip due to the arena’s fast schedule. NHL action begins as early as October 28 with a four-game homestand ending November 3. The Coyotes won’t be returning until December 9th, the same month the Addendum is expected to be completed.
“One of the great things about this job was the coordination between the architect and the contractors. That was really crucial. They have an architect who will listen to us, whether it’s hockey operations or any other event we’re going to do. To be able to draw our vision that we have… The coordination of the job is one of the best I’ve seen,” said Peter Luukko, executive chairman of Oak View Group, which will lead the arena.
For the past several years, the Arizona State Athletics Department has wanted to find a way to provide a long-term home for the hockey program. The department had several “false starts” and even considered a project that would have been adjacent to the Desert Financial Arena. However, it lacked the new arena’s amenities, including 22 suites and 658 club seats.
“That is the answer for the next 50 years. I think we were honest with ourselves and knew this wasn’t the right arena for us for the next 50 years,” Ferrara said.
The multipurpose arena is one of the additions to the ASU Novus Innovation Corridor managed by Oak View Group. The mixed-use development will include hotels and apartments, which will be linked to the arena once Sun Angel Stadium is removed. ASU Athletics will be moving its facilities across the street in the near future.
While NHL games are expected to be played at the venue, there are other big plans for the future, including a possible bid to host an NCAA Regional.
“If we’re ever lucky enough to host an NCAA Regional or even just a tournament like the Desert Hockey Classic, it’s great to have four locker rooms. It’s no secret that our 5,000 spots is the NCAA minimum for hosting a regional league,” Ferrara said.
While the NHL has been heavily involved in the upgrades that have been made to the arena, redesigning areas for replay areas and adding more technology, it was necessary to gather feedback from players, especially since the facility has far fewer seats than a typical one NHL Arena.
Recently, officials from the NHLPA, the union that represents NHL players, even visited the site to see how development is progressing.
“At first there’s a bit of fear of the unknown, and then they come into the facility and meet Frank and the university and see how they’ve committed to hockey. And then they go through the facility and then you see, hey, that’s pretty cool,” Luukko said. “That doesn’t address the economics and other aspects of the sport, but at the end of the day in terms of a game that’s presented here, it’s going to be fantastic and fun for the players.”
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