A beautiful site: GCU Stadium is ready for action
(Editor’s note: This story is from the August 2016 issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.)
By Jeannette Cruz
There’s a reason why those of us who grew up living and breathing soccer call it “the beautiful game.” When you look closely at the sport — from watching school-age kids kick around a ball in a neighborhood park to rooting on professional teams in the World Cup — something magical happens. Soccer creates a cultural bond, one in which spirit, diversity and communities are brought together as one because it takes more than a single player to dominate the field. Add in passion and skill, and achieving the goal makes the moment even more significant.
Sounds a lot like what’s happening at Grand Canyon University.
GCU’s already passionate sense of community is adding yet another bonding element this month: the state-of-the-art stadium that now adorns the west side of campus.
Men’s soccer coach Schellas Hyndman can hardly contain himself as he sits in his new office under what he calls “arguably the best soccer stadium in the country.” Above his desk is a rendering of the stadium, a gift from GCU President Brian Mueller when Hyndman arrived early last year. Like a good game of soccer, Hyndman notes, it took an endless amount of teamwork to master that goal.
“In 31 years of coaching, you put together all the time that I’ve personally spent with presidents of universities, and it may have amounted to just a little over an hour,” Hyndman said. “My first meeting with President Mueller was probably 2½ hours. His level of enthusiasm is one you can appreciate.”
Since then, the former FC Dallas coach has sat down with Mueller regularly to talk about their vision for the intimate stadium setting, which encompasses 41,000 square feet and has grass berms on three sides. Now that vision is ready to come to fruition with music, fireworks, halftime shows and, of course, great soccer.
Hyndman promises that the atmosphere will be electrifying. And as the only Division I men’s team in the state, the potential of GCU soccer is bounteous.
“At the collegiate level, these moments are called soccer games, but at GCU they will become events,” Hyndman said. “It’s going to be a great home field, with great fans and all of the plans and all of the ambition that the University has about creating a larger community.”
The new soccer stadium is only a speck of what GCU has built in just the last year. By the end of the year the University will have 10 new facilities recently completed or under construction. So let’s pass the ball on to the next project.
Just east of the soccer stadium is the Student Life Building, a new four-story modern office space at the intersection of the Promenade and Lopes Way. (Click here for a video tour.) The initial upside to this building is the fact that it is located at the Promenade Circle, which historically has been considered the heart of campus.
On the first floor are the busiest departments — Canyon Activities Board, Spiritual Life, Life Leaders and Associated Students of GCU. There also is a study lounge and some common spaces.
The office of Pastor Tim Griffin, the dean of students, is on the second floor along with Residence Life, Counseling and the newly created Housing department. Athletics occupies the third floor, and the executive team and a number of other departments are on the top floor.
Griffin said he envisions a dynamic and cultural atmosphere on the lower levels that will be overrun by students 24/7 — a sight he is eager to catch from his window right above the east entrance.
“I hope that students see this building as a place that is here to serve them,” Griffin said. “If they see this as an ivory palace, then we’ve made a mistake. Our intent is to embrace and engage students. Our doors will be open all the time.”
Danielle Rinnier, Spiritual Life director, said the first few weeks of the fall semester will consist of helping students find a club that best fits their interests, which typically means there will be popcorn machines and snow cones right outside the administrative offices.
“It’s exciting to know that this place will be highly populated as students come and go,” she said. “That is probably the single greatest impact that this building is going to have.”
This year, GCU will have at least 170 unique and small weekly groups for students to choose from — including Chapel, The Gathering, Refugee Ministry and Canyon Kids. For Welcome Week alone, the office of Student Engagement has at least 80 events already planned.
“Students drive students — that’s a huge philosophy of ours,” said Jeremy Mack, director of Student Engagement. “We sacrificed office space for student space because our biggest focus is to have students capture the attention of our incoming freshmen. If they feel a connection with a program or club on campus, we want to connect them to it.”
Just south of the soccer stadium is a wing of the L-shaped, 173,447-square-foot engineering building, the second structure on campus devoted to that program. The new building consists of two four-story structures connected by elevators and stairs and houses two lecture halls, 34 classrooms and project labs, 66 faculty offices and eight laboratories for students enrolled in new electrical, mechanical and biomedical engineering degree programs.
Three new six-story apartments — Encanto, Roadrunner and Agave — will accommodate upperclassmen and bring the number of residence halls up to 17. Each of the 241,705-square-foot apartments houses 650 beds and features a full kitchen and four individual bedrooms. The style is similar to Papago I and II, which opened in 2014.
Giving maturing students the freedom to be independent continues to be an important part of the college experience, said Matt Hopkins, director of Residence Life. His department also helps students learn to develop close-knit friendships and creates community gatherings to keep students engaged.
Recreational opportunities are another major focus this year — four new competitive and intramural beach volleyball courts, six new tennis courts, two basketball courts and enhancements to the baseball and softball fields. The university’s Division I baseball and softball stadiums both will be expanded, with the softball facility pushed out to the northeast to create more seating for spectators.
For the first time, the GCU tennis teams will have a place on campus to call home. The new tennis courts on 30th Drive will be kept busy as a practice facility and site of intercollegiate, club and intramural matches.
Construction of a 24,000-square-foot basketball practice facility next to GCU Arena has begun and is scheduled to be completed by January. The facility also will house a Jerry Colangelo museum, devoted to one of the most influential business and sports icons in the country. Inside, the men’s and women’s basketball teams will have access to a players’ lounge, a team meeting room and a full practice court with offices and cameras overlooking the court.
The practice facility puts GCU men’s and women’s basketball on par with some of the top schools in the country that already have a dedicated practice facility, said Mike Vaught, GCU’s vice president of athletics.
Off campus at 27th Avenue and Camelback Road is the 155-bedroom GCU Hotel, which opened to the public last August. It will be joined in December by a new four-story office building that will centralize employees who currently work at GCU’s Peoria and Tempe campuses.
Walk into the GCU Hotel and the first thing you’ll notice is the purple — purple paintings, purple bed décor and employees in purple uniforms, plus trendy stools with antelope engravings. It is opening its new family restaurant, 75,000-gallon pool and outside gaming area this month. The restaurant name, Canyon 49 Grill, is a nod to Grand Canyon College’s opening in 1949.
“I like to think of this place as a learning laboratory for students,” hotel manager Brett Cortright said. “What’s going to make this hotel different is the student workers. They’re working to be a part of this industry, and that commitment adds interaction, customer-friendly service and engagement.”
There is a purpose to all this construction — to benefit students and the community. That’s the goal. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or [email protected].