Sun Devils In The Details

Arizona State University in Tempe is getting into the real estate business – sort of.

The university has named John Creer its new assistant vice president for real estate development, replacing Steve Nielsen who is leaving for the private sector.

The news comes as ASU is opening up a big chunk of lakeside property for future development it hopes will finance a rebuilding of 70,000-seat .

Creer will spend much of his time working on the University Athletics Facilities District, a 330-acre spread in Tempe “created to generate a long-term revenue stream to fund upgrades to Sun Devil Stadium and other athletic facilites,” according to the Phoenix Business Journal.

The land will be leased to developers for construction of a master-planned community with commercial, residential, retail, hotel, conference and athletic space, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The developers will prepay leases for as long as 99 years, and commercial tenants would be able to avoid state property taxes, instead making annual, in-lieu “assessments” to ASU.

It’s a non-traditional approach to funding a football stadium and the plan has such critics as the conservative Goldwater Institute, which accuses ASU of “mission drift” and “empire building” with the plan.

Estimates to modernize and rebuild Sun Devil Stadium range from $100 million to $400 million – sums not easily raised through donations, property taxes and enrollment fees.

Critics say the university could have simply sold the land to a private owner and put it back on tax rolls, and put the proceeds toward the stadium project.

“Instead, they’re rolling out a new product line, distorting the local market and competing unfairly with private property owners,” the Goldwater Institute’s Stephen Slivinksi told the Journal.

ASU winnowed the list of potential suitors for the property down to five in December 2012.

Two have recently submitted business plans. It’s hoped a development team can be in place in early 2014 and the first building can open in late 2016 or early 2017, according to the paper.