image title

How to turn a stadium into a year-round cultural hub

Sun Devil Stadium vision: A 365-day cultural mecca with a few football games.
Graduate students propose year-round uses for Sun Devil Stadium.
July 22, 2016

ASU student team proposes ideas for using newly renovated Sun Devil Stadium every day

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2016, click here.

For about seven Saturdays every fall, Sun Devil Stadium is a paradise of Arizona State University spirit as thousands of screaming fans cheer on the football team, but on any given weekday it sits quiet and practically vacant.

ASU wants to change that and hopes to create a year-round cultural hub that draws people of all ages every day of the year after the stadium's $250 million renovation is complete next year.

A team of five graduate students took on the challenge, called Stadium 365, in a consulting internship this summer. The group, which recently gave its final presentation, envisions Sun Devil Stadium filled with fitness classes, alumni gatherings, conferences, dinner parties, academic classes, running events, concerts, pop-up stores and a weekly farmers’ market.

Right now their proposals are just ideas, but ASU has made clear that it is serious about transforming the stadium's role in the community.

“The potential of what this project could be is unbelievable because no one has done what we’re trying to do — 100 percent utilization 365 days a year,” said A.J. Higgins, one of the team members, who earned an MBA in May from at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

The proposals could earn revenue for ASU and promote the university's brand in the community while deepening its ties with students, who would be running many of the events.

'It's important to get this right'

ASU held an open house last fall to gather stadium ideas from community members, who came up with everything from Rolling Stones concerts to yoga classes.

The MBA students spent 10 weeks calling other venues, talking to alumni, analyzing costs and revenue projections and weighing variables in order to support their proposals.

Some of the pitches would generate a lot of money, but be complicated to implement. For example, a big-name concert could potentially, according to the students' proposal, earn more than $2 million in one day in ticket, food and beverage profits, but it would require costly security and clean-up.

ASU wants a lot of people to use the new stadium, so free or low-cost events that wouldn’t make much profit still would be desirable. For example, the graduate students estimated that free movie nights might earn only $60,000 a year from food and beverage sales but could draw a non-football-fan crowd and fill a need for family-friendly entertainment. Likewise, fitness classes could generate $52,000 annually, but they also would utilize the stadium for more than 200 days a year. Those kinds of uses would strengthen ASU's community connections.

One idea that would make money from currently unused space is pop-up stores — tents set up on the stadium concourse. The student team estimated that ASU could make about $144,000 a year leasing these spaces. More importantly, the pop-ups could be low-cost sales venues for student or community entrepreneurs.

The students had to figure in variables such as competition. For example, stadiums at other universities make money by hosting high school sports tournaments. ASU could potentially host high school soccer or football events, but the University of Phoenix Stadium has a profit-sharing agreement with area high schools for playoff games and NCAA rules prohibit ASU from that kind of a deal.

Most of the ideas focused on using the field and concourse, but the student team saw big potential in leasing the club and suite spaces — estimating earnings $2 million a year and drawing more than 760,000 people. These spaces would be attractive for meetings and conferences, with views of the field. However, suite owners might not go for it.

Food and beverage sales are the crux of the plans, and the group spent a lot of time researching possibilities.

“From a fan perspective, it’s important to get this right, but it’s also important to get food and beverage right form a business perspective,” said Moose Fritz, one of the team members.

“Every year, fans spend more than $1 million on concessions at Sun Devil Stadium, and the university gets almost $400,000 just from concessions from the main part of the stadium,” he said. 

The Stadium 365 student team toured the stadium earlier this month while analyzing proposals to use the venue year-round. Contributed photo

ASU could make a lot more money by eliminating the third-party vendor it hired to run all the stadium’s concessions, according to the group. (It's important to remember that this is just a proposal in the student project — there is no indication from the university that this is under consideration.)

If the university were to take over running the food and beverages itself, the profit could be $4 million according to the estimate.

Fritz said that few universities do this because it’s complicated and might require a lot of money to be spent on renovating the kitchens and concession stands.

One important element to keeping the stadium student-centric is allowing students to spend their “Maroon and Gold Dollars” — their pre-paid food-service accounts.

“We estimate $2.50 per capita on food and beverage but that will go to zero if they can’t pay us,” Fritz said.

Giving back to ASU

The students said they had almost no limitations when they began their project — except they couldn't use the field during football season.

“I think that speaks to the innovative nature of ASU that there was no solution that was off the table from the start. If we can show it will work, they’re willing to listen and give it some consideration,” Fritz said.

They faced questions about whether their plans would really be implemented. The students are optimistic, and Colleen Jennings-RoggensackJennings-Roggensack also is associate vice president for cultural affairs for ASU., executive director for ASU Gammage who is overseeing all programming at the new stadium, told them that they should give their presentation to the university’s top administrators.

“The level of detail that you’ve gotten will be a great guide for us,” she said.

Team members Ying Zhang and Lida Amini Shervin are international students who have never been to a football game. When they think about the stadium space, they hope for cultural events that draw families and young professionals.

Fritz said he saw the internship as a chance to give back to ASU.

“I came back to school because I wanted a management position in the Foreign Service. So if I’m going to be a public servant the rest of my life, I’m probably not going to make enough money to donate enough to get them to name a building after me. But this gives me the opportunity to have a lasting effect on the university,” he said. 

Todd Runyan, another team member, said that working on a stadium was special to him because he was a college football player at Brigham Young and Cornell universities.

“This could be a great place to for students to get real-world experience running a stadium. That would add to their ASU degrees that they actually did this at a major venue,” he said.

“As a football player it was a special place for me," he said. "But if we could make it special for everyone, that would be a success in my eyes.”

More stadium ideas

ASU Design School students drew on faculty research and their peers’ creativity to rethink the idea of what a stadium can — and should — be. Read their ideas here.

Top photo: Sun Devil Stadium is undergoing a $250 million renovation. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

image title

ASU undergrads get practice before med school

ASU has one-stop shop where pre-health majors can get the experience they need.
Pre-health internship program gives students edge when applying for med school.
July 22, 2016

Pre-health program provides clinical hours to give participants a practical advantage

Ever since Kenny Peterson (pictured above) was young, he’s wanted to be a vet — and it shows. He greets each pup at Midwestern Small Animal Clinic, where he’s interning, with a big smile and a gentle rub. The pre-health bio major genuinely loves the work he’s doing, and he’s getting to do it while he’s still an undergrad at Arizona State University.

In the past, students majoring in pre-health disciplines had to practically jump through hoops just to get a decent amount of hands-on medical experience during their undergrad years. Now, ASU’s Office of Clinical Partnerships’ Pre-Health Internship Program (PHIP) is providing a one-stop shop where they can apply for and be matched to internships that provide them with the relevant clinical hours they need to gain the experience and edge they need to go on to med school.

Pre-health majors come from a variety of schools and colleges within ASU, and this program is for all of them. Before it existed, there simply wasn’t a coordinated effort between all of the schools and colleges aimed at helping students get internship experience, said Renae Larcus, manager for health internships at ASU; they each had their own way of doing things.

So the task for Larcus and her colleagues was to identify how to provide a coordinated approach for students looking for clinical internships. “The intent was to create a one-stop shop where students could do the application process and be matched to a placement site that fit them,” she said.

There are three sessions available: spring, summer and fall. The program placed its first cohort of 19 students in the summer 2015 session, and that number grew to 40 for the summer 2016 session. For this fall’s session, they anticipate to place 125 pre-health students in clinical internships.

woman in scrubs

Elena Ion participated in the Pre-health Internship Program

Elena Ion participated in the program’s spring 2016 session and has since graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s in microbiology. She was placed at HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center, where she shadowed doctors and nurses.

While she learned the basics, such as how to take a patients’ vitals and administer medications, she also learned some unexpected lessons. “We had this one child — poor kid — 11 years old, and he fell into a cactus,” she recalled. When removing the needles became too painful for him, the doctor made the decision to sedate the boy. Before that could be done, though, he had to explain to his parents why, how and what they were about to do.

“This internship gave me the opportunity to see how the doctors interact with patients, and how the nurses interact with patients,” Ion said. “I learned that you have to make sure that people understand what you’re doing. You can’t just walk in and tell them in scientific terms, ‘We’re going to do this,’ because if they don’t understand, they might get scared, and then you don’t have that trusting doctor-patient connection.”

Christina Islas is the program’s placement specialist, working with pre-health majors at all four ASU campuses. She serves as the liaison between the students and the placement sites, which she tours ahead of time to meet the staff and get a rundown of what the students will be doing on a daily basis.

“Having this opportunity opens a lot of doors for students,” Islas said. “Actually, getting to have these experiences first-hand, before medical school is an eye-opener. And the majority of placement sites are doctor’s offices and clinics, so they get to understand the business part of it, too.”

Before his internship at the animal clinic, Peterson thought being a veterinarian would be somewhat laid back. “In all actuality, it’s a pretty non-stop industry,” he said. “If you have one client in a room, you might be finishing up paperwork on the client you were just with, and you have another person coming to you with another client that’s ready to see you. So I’ve just been learning a lot of good techniques on how to handle stress, how to handle difficult situations and still be professional.”

Aside from the clinical hours, the internship also has a class portion in which students learn invaluable information, like how to apply for med school.

“You sit down and they go through the application with you, and they give you advice about how you should write your personal statement,” Ion said. “It’s a lot of useful information that nobody tells you. … Small details that you probably would find out eventually but maybe the hard way.”

Ion just recently finished her application for med school and is set to take the MCAT Aug. 5. She’s got her sights set on becoming a general surgeon and has her fingers crossed that she’ll get accepted to the Mayo Medical School opening in Scottsdale in 2017.

“I feel like now I have a better understanding of what to expect,” she said.

As for Peterson, he completed his internship July 8 but still has two more semesters before graduating from ASU with his bachelor’s in biology. When he does, though, he’ll have plenty of clinical experience.

“It’s definitely very competitive and difficult to get into the medical field,” he said. “So having an internship like this — whether it’s at Midwestern, or a private practice, or something else — at least you’re getting that experience. And after this semester, I will have 135 hours of clinical experience that I can add to my resume.”

Larcus is grateful that the program is meeting ASU pre-health students’ needs and helping to ensure their success.

“Everybody’s got a 4.0. Everybody’s got good MACT scores,” she said. “[Students] are trying to beef up their resume, and what they’ve found is that because they lack clinical hours, it puts them at a disadvantage. This program is providing them with a good opportunity to get clinical hours that will increase their chances of getting into medical school.”

Emma Greguska

Editor, ASU News

(480) 965-9657