Contradicting statements from President Michael Crow and Athletic Director Ray Anderson about Desert Financial Arena are concerning and unacceptable, as athletes at ASU depend upon it to succeed in their sports.
In a meeting with The State Press, Crow spoke about comments made by Anderson in February 2022 to Arizona Sports' Bickley and Marotta about Desert Financial Arena, in which Anderson said the arena is in “dire need” of improvements.
"I don't know what he meant by 'dire,'" Crow said in the meeting. "You've been there. It's completely functional. It's actually a fine facility and just needs some updates."
On that note, one may believe that DFA is completely functional if one thinks that an arena being functional means that a basketball can bounce in it and thousands of people can sit on folding arena seats.
In reality, that is not functionality, especially not at the high standards ASU facilities should be held to.
The air conditioning at DFA is in need of an update, and Crow said an upgrade would cost about $25 million. Seating, handrails and locker room improvements were also mentioned by Crow as possible updates.
Air conditioning, seating, handrails and locker rooms are basic parts of what would determine a Division I sports arena to be "functional." Those features would be in a functional high school basketball gym! If those aspects even need to be brought up for potential updates, that is not a good sign.
Warren Brannoch, a Sun Devil fan and Youngker High School head freshman football coach, expressed dissatisfaction with his experience at DFA.
Brannoch said handicapped seats were not available ahead of time for the ASU men's basketball home game against Arizona, and he was told to show up early to the game to get them. He said when looking for those seats for his parents, there were only 10 handicapped seats available in the arena.
He also said his sister had to have his one-year-old nephew "be changed on the ticket office floor" because there weren't adequate family restrooms available.
"It's astonishing to me that a University of that stature doesn't have the facilities it needs for its fans, especially, you know, handicapped, or whoever they be, of all types of ages, to come to an arena and enjoy a game," Brannoch said.
Crow said the facility "does not determine if we win basketball games at all."
That is ridiculous. Facility quality affects teams before they even play, when it comes to recruiting, marketing and everything in between.
Yet, who could say they're surprised?
Crow's comments are part of a wider trend of neglect of student facilities. If ASU athletics and academics want to be a source of excellence, its facilities need to be adequate at the very least, or, as Crow said, functional.
But, let's be clear about one thing: these problems aren't just a Crow issue or an Anderson issue. It's a problem with the approach to public education that has led ASU to have only 12% of its 2023 gross revenue come from state appropriations.
ASU fundamentally runs as a private business. It cuts costs, cuts corners and neglects its facilities because that is incentivized by the way it is funded.
If it received a strong budget from the state of Arizona and was empowered to ensure all students and athletes have the tools they need to succeed, we would never see problems like mold in dorms and outdated air conditioning systems in an arena located in one of the hottest places in the U.S.
This isn't to offer an excuse for Crow and Anderson. They both need to be on the same page about the University and its athletics, and they both need to prioritize what is best for the people who study, live and work here.
ASU students and supporters should demand that Crow and Anderson get on the same page about ASU's athletic facilities and advocate for a stronger state budget that helps empower the University to take care of its buildings.
Edited by Kate Duffy, Reagan Priest and Anusha Natarajan.
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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Aaron Stigile is an opinion columnist at The State Press. He previously wrote for The Defiant Movement and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is also working toward a minor in Spanish and a certificate in Cross-Sector Leadership.