An Olympic Village on campus is promising for the future of Sun Devil Athletics

ASU looks to update and build new athletic facilities for Olympic hopefuls

The Olympics might be coming to ASU.

ASU has announced plans to create a comprehensive Olympic Village on the Tempe campus in the next few years. The project will consist of both renovations to preexisting stadiums and the construction of brand-new facilities.

The idea of making an Olympic training center has been encouraged by Ray Anderson, vice president for University Athletics. If these ambitious plans follow through, ASU could very well become a top NCAA contender in the near future.

Currently, Wells Fargo Arena is due for a renovation and Sun Devil Stadium is partway through its own major overhaul, which began following the 2014 football season and will likely last until 2018. In addition to these projects, ASU is trying to start something from scratch.

“We’re looking for an opportunity to build a new multi-sport arena, which could house Olympic sports such as men’s ice hockey, wrestling, women’s volleyball and gymnastics,” said Scott Nelson, senior associate athletic director of ASU.

The success of this project would surely benefit ASU athletics, as these upgraded facilities would draw in young, talented athletes from all over the globe.

“I certainly think that the emphasis we’re putting into facilities will pay large dividends in our ability to recruit and retain world-class student athletes,” Nelson said.

The exact timeline of this ambitious project is “still fluid at this time” while ASU gains philanthropic support through Campaign ASU 2020 and the exact size and scope of these stadiums and arenas are determined, according to Nelson.

Nevertheless, new facilities won’t be the sole selling point for potential Sun Devil athletes — ASU’s hiring of renowned Olympic coaches is arguably even more enticing.

“Student athletes and prospective student athletes are certainly attracted to head coaches,” Nelson said. “As we bring in high-profile, nationally recognized names to Arizona State University, it only enhances our ability to market and develop our Olympic sports here on campus.”

In recent years, ASU has hired Bob Bowman as the men’s and women’s swimming and dive head coach and Zeke Jones as the wrestling team’s head coach. Bowman coached men’s swim at the Olympics in Rio, London, Beijing and Athens.

His swimmers, including the legendary Michael Phelps, have collectively set an impressive 43 world records. Phelps, who is the most decorated Olympian of all time, has also been a volunteer head coach alongside Bowman this season. Meanwhile, Jones has an Olympic silver medal of his own and coached the United States Olympic wrestling team in London, Athens, Sydney and Atlanta

Hiring such accredited leaders has already proved to be a beneficial decision for Sun Devil Athletics. On February 26, Jones led the wrestling team to win its first conference championship since the 2006 season.

“What Zeke Jones was just able to successfully do by winning a Pac-12 wrestling championship this past weekend at Stanford I think speaks volumes to the potential success that lies out there for many of our Olympic sport programs as we bring in great leaders,” Nelson said.

In addition, Silja Kansakoski won ASU’s first individual title in the Pac-12 conference for women’s swimming since 2012 with her performance in the 100-yard breaststroke.

Employing talented, notable coaches in conjunction with creating a state-of-the-art Olympic training facility will undoubtedly provide a significant boost for ASU athletics, as we’ve already caught a glimpse of with the recent successes in wrestling and swimming.

However, an on-campus Olympic Village won’t only benefit athletes — it will have advantages for the entire Sun Devil community.

“It’s a community asset,” Nelson said. “If these facilities are built out, it is our desire and Ray Anderson’s desire from our athletic director chair that these are facilities that the communities will be able to access, whether as fans or during down hours where we might not be using them as an athletic department.”

Ultimately, the Olympic Village would be a valuable opportunity for Sun Devil fans and athletes alike to continue to thrive.


Reach the columnist at alexwolfe3098@gmail.com or follow @alexandracwolfe on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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