When is a recession finally over?
When gas prices start going down? I saw a $3.87 sign this past week. I know, whoopee.
When enough people push and shove in long lines across America for the chance to hand over enough money to create a $640 million lottery jackpot? Maybe.
When sales figures start heading through the roof for … American cars? Whoa, now that just might be it.
For the East Valley, it just may have been in the last several days.
Last week, Steve Patterson, Arizona State University’s new athletic director, unveiled a plan to construct a huge shade structure over a rebuilt Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Non-taxpayer sources will be tapped for the estimated nine-figure cost.
And there just might be life in the proposed 1,200-room resort and conference center planned for east Mesa. As the Tribune’s Garin Groff reported last week, the owner-developers of the property dropped by to see it after being busy out of town for, uh, four years.
Groff reported that officials from the developer, Gaylord Entertainment Co., were in Mesa a few weeks back for the first time since 2008. That year they announced plans to build the massive complex.
For long-suffering Sun Devil fans, the canopy is a welcome alternative to building a new stadium somewhere else (Gasp! Frank Kush would roll over in his grave! Oh, wait, he’s alive.) or positioning giant sprinklers along the stadium rim to spray fans every 10 minutes.
Jokes momentarily aside, anyone who’s been to a day game — heck, even a night game — at the stadium in September knows it takes an average of three sodas per quarter to even attempt to keep a fan cool.
I know as a 15-year season ticketholder that Sun Devil Stadium is the only place in the Valley where plopping an ice cube down the back of the person in front of you will get a thank you instead of a punch in the mouth. So shade keeping those stands from baking all day will be incredibly appreciated.
Currently, however, being a Sun Devil fan is a rather warm experience, to say the least.
I share two season tickets with a longtime friend. Each year as the first game approaches, we argue over who gets the first pair.
“You take them.”
“No, you take them.”
“I took them last year.”
“You did not. We played NAU. Poor Lumberjacks keeled over during warmups.”
Actually, I’m just funning again. We don’t really argue. My friend’s one of those die-hard fans who doesn’t mind the heat. Heck, he would go to ASU games if it snowed here like it does in Green Bay. Who am I to argue with such devotion? So I go to that first game with him. But I don’t like it. I try to forget the heat by profusely thanking the person behind me each time I get an ice cube plopped down my back.
But back to the canopy. Sure, the artist’s renderings show it looking like a 250-foot-tall Flying Nun dropped her hat on the stadium, or a giant beige manta ray got lost in the desert on its way to the Caribbean.
But hey, we’ll lose the sunburns and get seat backs. This will eliminate the game of musical bench, where one too many people squeezes into an already tightly packed row of fans. There aren’t as many elbows being thrown on the field.
Of course, once the canopy goes up, what will come to an end during those 35-minute lulls when ASU’s Pac-12 foes are racking up three or four touchdowns? Playing “guess the airline” of Sky Harbor-bound planes flying overhead. Or, “guess the color of the passengers’ shirts.” Or, “read the flight attendants’ name tags.”
And as the Tribune’s Groff reported, while the Gaylord people were staying away from their once-desolate part of Mesa — “You go to Mesa.” “No, you go.” — a strange thing happened: Other people have been developing commercial property in the area.
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith told Groff, in so many words, that this might get the Gaylord folks moving at last and start mixing concrete.
Let’s hope so. We might just get more supporters of visiting college football teams out here needing a great place to stay. Or, um, maybe some other people.
And ASU fans? Wait until they figure out that the estimated $300 million for the canopy won’t include air conditioning.
Keep ordering extra ice in those sodas, you Devils.
Mark J. Scarp is a Tribune community columnist who fully discloses that he teaches a class at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, yet he still perspires fiercely at those September Sun Devil football games. Read his views here on Sundays and watch his video commentaries at eastvalleytribune.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.