Arizona Wildcats athletic director Greg Byrne remembers the day he was introduced in Tucson, in March 2010.
“I came out to a spring football practice, and Coach (Mike) Stoops was there and we talked about the facilities,” Byrne said Thursday. “This is the first thing that he and I talked about.”
The “this” is the $74 million Lowell-Stevens facility, a project started on the watch of former athletic director Jim Livengood and then hustled into completion by Byrne’s strong fund-raising efforts, plus those of associate athletic director Erika Barnes.
The program’s new digs put Arizona into the kind of strong recruiting position that Stoops was someday hoping to enjoy. But he was fired midway into his eighth season after a streak of 10 consecutive losses to FBS teams.
Byrne thanked Stoops on Thursday for pushing for the project. (Former coach Dick Tomey was no less passionate about getting upgraded facilities but rarely spoke about it publicly, lest it be used by other schools against him in recruiting.)
Stoops, now the defensive coordinator in his second stint at Oklahoma, said he can be happy that Arizona is moving forward with the new facilities.
“The kids deserve them and the program deserves them,” he told TucsonCitizen.com this spring.
“The facilities we had, it set Arizona back 20 years, and that’s disappointing. I know how important facilities are. I was at Oklahoma, and I saw what they did.”
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Arizona will hold off opening up the Zona Zoo student section before games until the completion of the Wildcat Walk, as the team makes it way to the stadium from Cherry Avenue.
The walk begins two hours before kickoff, and Byrne hopes that the students will gather in force near the entrance to Lowell-Stevens.
“We want students to gather right here at the end of it, and the goal is to make it even better and stronger with the presence of Zona Zoo, and with the presence of all the fans that are there and have them say, ‘I’m at the Wildcat Walk every single week,’” Byrne said.
“That makes a difference for us with our recruits because our recruits get to see it.”
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One of the more unique aspects of the facility is that the on-site cafeteria, Bear Down Kitchen, will be open to the general public for breakfast and lunch. There is seating for up to 150.
The hours of operation will be announced later. The fourth-floor Bear Down Kitchen will be closed on game days because the area will be used for recruiting visits.
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Arizona also installed FieldTurf CoolPlay on Bear Down Field north of the stadium. That area will be used by the university for club sports and intramurals, as it was before construction of Lowell-Stevens, although UA athletes will use it for conditioning in the mornings. …
The official capacity of Arizona Stadium is at 56,037 after being listed at 51,811 last season while the north end zone was closed for construction. The stadium capacity was 57,400 before the changes, which brought chair backs and premium seating to the north side. …
Want to sponsor a coach? Arizona is looking for naming rights for the coaching offices. The lettering on the wall of coach Rich Rodriguez’s office reads “Peter & Nancy Salter” with smaller letters underneath: “Head Coach’s Suite.” Naming rights have been sold for the office of offensive coordinator Calvin Magee. (Hmmmm … wonder what it would take to make it AG’s Wildcat Report Media Room?)
The lobby of Lowell-Stevens features touch-screen monitors that display the history of the program, including interviews and game highlights.