ASU's ICA Build with 'Student-Athlete in Mind'

College Sports fans used to describe ASU as a "sleeping giant." The reasoning for this label lied in the misperception that it had one of best sports facilities in the country. However, following a $19.1 million expansion to the Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) building the misperception has become reality. ASU's facilities, which up until a few years ago weren't considered to be among the 50 best in the country, proudly rank nationwide in the top 20, as well as in the top 3 in the Pac-10.

There are many purposes that are served by this remarkable 136,000 square feet building, but none are more important than the individuals who don the Sparky logo on their game uniforms. "This expansion was done with the student athlete in mind." Says ASU's Athletic Director Gene Smith. "When the student-athletes are not in practice, game, or class, the majority of their needs can be served here…We also give them tools to improve for the next level." Smith stressed the importance of a self-contained building, which allows as much contact as possible with the athletes. Messages for players can not only be left on physical message boards, but also on the several TV screens spread out through the facility. The benefits of the remodeled ICA building extend also to its other residents – the employees of the Athletic Department. 150 or 83% of this department is housed in this facility. Smith pointed out the increased morale, communication, and efficiency that exists among his staff ever since they were housed under one roof.

Naturally, an impressive structure such as the ICA has not only a profound effect on the current student-athletes, but also on the recruiting prospects. Gene Smith says: "After a tough season in Football, we still have a top 20 class in recruiting, and that's thanks to this building." If there's one component of the ICA that is most impressive, it is the 16,000 square foot weight room, which is large enough to have the full Football squad train at the same time. Incoming Football Freshman Jake Bingham, was quoted saying that the Sun Devil weight room was by far better than Nebraska's, a school who's weight room was considered the cream of the crop. Sports Illustrated is setting up shop here for the next three days, as part of an article that will proclaim ASU's weight room as being the best in College Football. The $650,000 crown jewel features a nutrition bar, a 40-yard track, and a water therapy room. This component of the ICA has also been admired by ex-Sun Devils who are playing in the NFL, who have stated that very few NFL weight rooms compare to the ASU one.

"The entire building is huge in recruiting, not only the weight room." Exclaims The Sun Devil Athletic Director. A tour of the ICA does nothing to contradict his statement. Equally impressive as the weight room, is the video services room and the cutting edge system it houses. The video service staff is able to virtually use no videotapes while taping practices and games. All the tapings are recorded on to a network server that is used to download the taping to individual laptops. Playbooks are being loaded on laptops, and coaches can review game film shortly after a game or practice. This high tech unit is mobile and flexible enough to take to the wilderness of camp Tontozona next month. "I remember splicing film at 4 AM when I was a graduate assistant at Notre Dame." Says Smith "This system will allow coaches to break down games on the plane ride back home, and spend more time with their families." The state of the art video system was costly, but also easily justifiable in Smith's eyes. "We got the total package up front, because we didn't want to be constantly adding pieces each year…The video system has impressed recruits just as much as weight room."

All the positions on the Football team now have their individual meeting rooms, and the entire team can meet in a 150-seat theatre. The locker room is extremely spacious, and most of the lockers there are sponsored by ex-Sun Devil players. The Football team, as well as other student athletes will soon have their training table located on the ICA's sixth floor, with a perfect view of Sun Devil Stadium (behind the south end zone). Overall, the ICA expansion is 90% finished. In the next several weeks, a Student Athlete lounge will be completed. This room will feature pool tables, video games, and other amenities to pass time between practices and study hall (which is strategically located on a different floor and on the opposite wing). Fans will appreciate the covered ticket office area, that will make standing in line for a ticket in September more pleasant. The Sparky Team Shop is set to open next month in time for the first home game. ASU's hall of fame area will be completed in the next few months, and will be located on the ground level of the ICA building.

Gene Smith mentioned other Athletic Department projects that have been on hold. The Olympic-training center, which was supposed to be part of the Wells Fargo Arena expansion, will be addressed next year. "Originally it was thought to be a wing attached to the arena, but now we're looking into having it connected to ICA." There will be a study to examine the feasibility of construction of the area between the arena and the stadium. In addition, financial constraints are holding this project back. On the other hand, the Packard Stadium renovation is moving forward. The project was delayed due to the folding of the original architecture firm, which has left the valley. The new firm appointed promised that the renovations will be concluded in time for the start of Baseball season in January. The refurbishment of Sun Devils stadium is an issue that is often brought up. Smith cited the uncertainty of the Cardinals stadium location, as one factor that is impeding any actions on the eventual upgrade of this facility. "We don't know how much longer our relationship with the Cardinals will be." Says the Athletic Director who also alluded to a "a yearly $7M maintenance problem" which has to be addressed before renovations can begin. Smith did mention that the transformation of bleachers to seats with backs would reduce the capacity of the stadium. In general, fan amenities are one of the core issue to be addressed in the future plan for Sun Devil Stadium.

Two years and several millions dollars later ASU's ICA building has added 63,000 square feet to its existing 73,000. While the renovation project isn't fully completed the rave reviews the facility consistently draws from insiders and outsides alike, has already proven that this monuments endeavor has been a rousing success. It seems that now everything is in place for the athletic giant known as Arizona State University, to be fully awaken and start building its legacy in College Sports.

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