Arizona Stadium (Football)
An historic stadium that sits in the heart of the city, Arizona Stadium stands as a testament to the history and continuing tradition of Arizona football. Built in 1928 with only 7,000 seats located on the west side between the end zones, the stadium has grown into a 56,000+ seat facility that combines old style charm with modern conveniences. It’s quite simply a great place to play and watch a game.
From the end zone bleachers to the upper-deck stands, every seat features an uncluttered view of the playing surface, and more than half the seats provide sweeping vistas of the nearby Santa Catalina Mountains, as well as the campus and city skyline. The pre-game buildup leading up to most home games can be spent enjoying a tailgate or Fan Fiesta, then taking seats for a desert sunset behind the west façade of the stadium before welcoming the cooler evenings and Pac-10 game action.
The playing surface itself was renewed in recent years, with hybrid Bermuda grass for a natural surface that is resilient and fast. The majority of the stadium grass was resodded again in 2009 making the natural surface a top feature of Arizona Football.
Most games at Arizona Stadium have turned in favor of the Wildcats. Since playing and winning their first game on Oct. 12, 1929 (35-0 vs. California Tech), Arizona football teams have played 468 games in the stadium hovering around a 65% winning percentage. The team has never failed to win at least one home game in a season and has gone undefeated nine times, the last time coming with a 6-0 record in 1993.
Part of that success is due to the fans in the stands, with UA enjoying steady fan support through the years, notably in the past three seasons with plus-50,000averages.
Big games draw big crowds at Arizona Stadium, especially if it’s a showdown with UA’s in-state rival. A stadium record crowd of 59,920 witnessed the Arizona-Arizona State game on Nov. 23, 1996. Four other sellout crowds in 1994 were close to that record – 58,817 (UCLA), 58,810 (Arizona State), 58,534 (Colorado State) and 58,374 (California). The highest average attendance for a season was the 56,612 per game who saw the Cats play in 1994. The 2006 average was second-best at 55,798, with four capacity crowds.
Arizona’s winning tradition is on display in the “Ring of Fame” installed prior to the 1998 season along the facade of the Stadium Skyboxes on the west side of the stadium. The 420-foot- long structure honors former football players who have either been named to All-America teams, national players of the year or players who have been national statistical leaders, and it displays each of the bowl games in which the Wildcats have appeared.
At the same time, other additions were made to display the pride of the University and the city for Wildcat football. On the east outside wall of the stadium stands lettering which proudly spells out “Home of the Wildcats” glows red at night, making it noticeable from one of the main streets of the city a few blocks away. Several areas of the stadium were also given new coats of red and blue paint, and flags representing each Pac-10 school were mounted above the north end zone bleachers.
As Arizona football has grown, so have the facilities surrounding it. In 1989, a $6.3 million structure housing the media, skyboxes and loge seating was added to accommodate increased interest in the football program. The four-story skybox put Arizona Stadium in first-class company, with a first level of 319 loge seats, second level of 13 suites, a third level with a President’s Box and 10 suites and the media center on the fourth level.
The media center is the third press box to service the media at Arizona Stadium. The increased exposure as the program moved into the Pacific-10 Conference outgrew the first two structures. It features 103 seats for the working press, three radio booths, three network television booths, coaching and administrative booths, a statistical operations booth and other operations and VIP areas.
The Scholarship Suite/Media Center addition was designed by Anderson, DeBartolo, Pan Inc., with the Sundt Corp. of Tucson as general contractor. The most challenging part of the project required building four 100,000-pound cantilever sections from which the structure is suspended. Constructing the cantilevers required a complex slip-forming operation taking place more than 100 feet in the air. The result is a structure that hangs over the existing stadium but does not touch it.
The project was financed by the UA Foundation through double tax-exempt bonds under the Arizona Municipal Financing Program. Leases from Scholarship Suites and loge seats will fund the retirement of the bonds and in the future provide scholarships for athletes and the general student body.
Each of the scholarship suites includes 12 theatre-type seats with the opportunity to purchase six additional tickets to each individual suite. They are equipped with closed-circuit television and an audio choice of crowd, public address or radio broadcast feeds.
Since the addition of that structure, the stadium has seen other improvements as well. New concession and rest room facilities were added at ground level on the northwest and northeast corners of the stadium, and a renovated and enlarged Stadium Club was completed in 1990. A new sound system was added in twice in the past decade, and the stadium boasts a brand new scoreboard project which was installed in 1999 and since updated.
These modern accoutrements are only the latest in a long line of additions made to the stadium throughout its 72-year history. In 1938, seats were added between the 25-yard lines on the east side to boost capacity to 10,000. Nine years later, the end zones were filled, and in 1950, the horseshoe at the south end was completed, giving the facility a capacity of 22,671 seats.
That’s the way it remained until 1965 when expansion on the west side provided 10,000 new seats, along with an 80-foot, multi-level press box. The two-tier addition to the east stands, adding 17,000 seats in 1976, was selected as one of six outstanding architectural projects in the Rocky Mountain States for 1977 by the AIA and presented to Finical and Dombrowski, Architects and Engineers of Tucson. Finally, permanent north-end bleacher seating for 4,500 was added in 1988 and can be expanded in the future.