Arizona State athletic director Graham Rossini addresses Desert Financial Arena upgrades

Some recent comments from new Arizona State athletic director Graham Rossini about renovations for ASU's Desert Financial Arena will likely bring some comfort to Sun Devils' fans who have been waiting for upgrades to the arena for years.

ASU fans have been clamoring for renovations to the arena, used by the Arizona State men's and women's basketball teams and other events, for years, but the university appears to have made little headway in actually making improvements to the venue, which has hosted the Sun Devil basketball teams since 1974.

Perhaps that will change with Rossini?

“I’m the first one to say there’s a way for us to present our basketball product in a more modern fashion,” Rossini told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “It’s got great bones, there are some attributes that we can bring out of it but we are very much mindful of the expectation of the fan in today’s day and age and what they want to see from a venue.

“It needs to be comfortable, it needs to be easy to navigate, it needs to be entertaining. The sound system, the scoreboard, etc. are all areas that we’re looking at. How do we make those improvements that are fan-focused in their mind?”

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No timeline given for Arizona State basketball arena renovations

In the interview with Arizona Sports, Rossini didn't give a timeline for the possible renovations to Desert Financial Arena, but the site wrote that Rossini "added Arizona State is having 'daily' conversations about what a refresh of the basketball arena might look like" and that "ASU hopes that it can formalize plans sometime this summer."

Rossini also told the station:

“It’s looking at the entire game day, the entire experience of watching basketball at that arena. I get it. I’m 6-foot-5, I’ve sat in those seats. It’s uncomfortable. We need to make some adjustments there. I’m the first one to admit we can be better to accommodate our fans.”

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What Michael Crow said about Desert Financial Arena last year

Rossini's comments have to be music to the ears of many Arizona State fans, but they also might be met with skepticism by those who have been begging the university for upgrades to the arena for years.

Comments made by Rossini's boss last year, ASU President Michael Crow, also might make some ASU fans have a hard time believing Rossini's comments.

"I don't know what he meant by 'dire,'" Crow told The State Press about the arena in March of 2023, in response to some comments from previous Athletic Director Ray Anderson. "You've been there. It's completely functional. It's actually a fine facility and just needs some updates."

The State Press reported last year that Crow said an update to the arena's air handling system would cost about $25 million. Crow also told people that seating could be updated, with the possibility to add handrails and spoke of improving the locker rooms.

"There haven't been any serious injuries just seriously from that," Crow said. "… That facility is completely functional. It does not determine if we win basketball games at all."

Arizona State University's Desert Financial Arena could definitely use some improvements.
Arizona State University's Desert Financial Arena could definitely use some improvements.

What ASU's previous athletic director said about Desert Financial Arena last year

In an exclusive interview with The Republic in May of last year, Anderson called Desert Financial Arena "tired."

"Just the general ambiance, aesthetics of the place. It’s tired," Anderson said. "It’s a tired arena. Maybe minimally functional but it's not a very exciting venue. That has been a constant item for me to address since I have been here and we continue to look at that where, for competitive purposes, recruiting, we have to make some upgrades. Equally important for the aesthetics and quite frankly, the safety of the place. I’m an attorney by trade. I used to do litigation. I know risk management and so I know liability threats."

He continued: "That’s one thing I actually lose sleep over, I can just see it. I have almost fallen and I know at least a dozen other people that say they have almost fallen and I know some who have but didn't necessarily tumble."

Anderson added: "We need a new sound system, no question, everything about the acoustics and the digital offerings there need attention. Our food and beverage offerings need to be upgraded. There are going to be other things you go to the arena for and can enjoy the experience. Really good food, drinks, easy in and out," he said. "There are limited additional revenue opportunities in there because there are no suites, advertising signage spaces. Those are things that can be done and very much in my mind, something we need to pay attention to."

He also said in the interview: "It is a priority for me personally. We have to address it in a very short order. For competitive purposes, fan experience overall and a big part of that is the safety factor."

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Ray Anderson in 2022: Desert Financial Arena in 'dire need' of improvements

Going further back, Anderson told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM in 2022 that ASU would be "pivoting" to work on improving Desert Financial Arena "quickly."

“We know we have got to address that,” Anderson said. “We said that several years ago. You may remember the original plan was to try to do hockey and basketball together. It became very clear to us that trying to do that combined project in the location was not going to work. We pivoted to focus first on the multi-purpose arena, which you know is now about to be complete.

“We never lost sight, yes, that Desert Financial … is in dire need, very frankly, of improvements. That is clearly on our radar. I anticipate we will be pivoting to that very quickly, because we need to.”

27 months have passed since those comments.

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Dealing with Desert Financial Arena has to be among the priorities for new ASU athletic director Graham Rossini.
Dealing with Desert Financial Arena has to be among the priorities for new ASU athletic director Graham Rossini.

Dealing with Desert Financial Arena has to be priority for Graham Rossini

Interestingly, The Republic's Michelle Gardner recently included Desert Financial Arena renovations among four items Rossini needed to tackle in his role as the Arizona State athletic director.

She wrote: "The facility that has served as home to the school's basketball teams is outdated and barely functional and nothing has been done to remedy the situation. It has been in use since 1974 and there have been no upgrades. It was easily one of the worst in the Pac-12 and remains among the worst in all Power 5 conference facilities. Among many issues, the acoustics are downright terrible. It just doesn't make for a great fan experience. In an interview with The Arizona Republic a year ago, Anderson acknowledged that this had to be addressed and yet another year went by when nothing was done. It remains an albatross."

Will Rossini be able to spearhead changes to ASU's basketball arena?

After years of talk, we'll forgive the fans who won't believe it until they see it.

More: Will new Arizona State athletic director be able to save the Coyotes with new arena?

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: ASU athletic director Graham Rossini on Desert Financial Arena fixes