GCU’s east side quietly becoming a destination
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
They have a saying in the new Diamondback Apartments at Grand Canyon University:
“Diamondback – it’s worth the walk.”
By the 2018-19 academic year, however, Diamondback and the nearby Agave Apartments will be a hop, skip and very short jump to two important new buildings on campus, and their residents also will have more neighbors as GCU continues its eastward migration.
Scheduled to be finished in the next 10 months, all in the area around Colter Street and 30th Drive, are two more apartment-style residence halls (named Cactus and Jerome), the Colangelo College of Business building, a club sports facility, another parking garage and more dining options.
Just like that, nearly 2,500 students will be housed on the east end of campus. Food trucks are now regularly in front of Diamondback, and in August those students will have convenient access to more eateries plus a GCBC. They also are within relatively easy walking distance of many more food choices on Lopes Way.
Kaeden Bauman, a resident director in Diamondback, noted that the distance discussion quickly quieted down once the weather cooled off in the fall semester.
“People say, ‘Oh, you live in Diamondback. Oh my gosh – way over there.’ But residents have found that it really is not too far, and people really do enjoy living on this side,” he said. “It tends to be quieter. Just being on a totally different side of campus adds to the experience overall.
“It feels more like you’re living off campus but still have the luxuries (and safety) of living on campus – almost more real-life, if you will.”
Diamondback and Agave tend to be populated by sophomores because upperclassmen usually snap up the apartments on or near Lopes Way, but the four-story, 150,000-square-foot CCOB building figures to attract business majors of all ages to the area.
The first two floors are scheduled to be ready by August, and the top two floors should be good to go by October. Given that it will have Jerry Colangelo’s name attached to it, you can be sure it will be thoughtfully done, adhering to the “gold standard” that the Phoenix business and sports icon practices.
Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB dean, said the new building will have a footprint similar to Building 57, with three connected four-story buildings. The Lazarus Lab, CCOB’s business incubator and co-working space, just launched last fall is going to be relocated to the new building as well.
“A key aspect to the design is for CCOB to have an area for students to hang out, study, meet with faculty and collaborate for group projects – create a sense of community for business students,” Gibb said.
The new location will have the Colangelo Library as well. There will be four lecture halls and 41 offices.
The other big new attraction in the area, the 135,000-square-foot club sports building, will feature 10 basketball/volleyball courts and will be multipurpose – creating another campus venue for large meetings. It is scheduled to be finished in October.
Club Sports Director Dan Nichols called it “a spectacular, one-of-a-kind venue that will serve as the major hub for the growing collegiate club sports world. It also will serve as a primary destination for intramural competition and students looking for recreational activities. We will be expanding our offerings that can house new, exciting indoor sports.”
The new student parking garage will be the same size as the one just to the south at 29th Avenue and Camelback – 799,664 square feet, with space for 2,400 vehicles.
Two other major construction projects are wrapping up. Anyone who has walked around the west side of campus probably has noticed the progress of the new grandstands for the baseball and softball stadiums, and both are scheduled to open in February.
The first games at the new 4,500-seat baseball stadium are scheduled for Feb. 16-18 against perennial power TCU. There will be field-level seating wrapping around the field, and a new artificial-turf practice field has been laid in next door.
There also will be artificial turf in foul territory, but the fair-territory part of the field will remain natural grass. The fences have been repainted, and the netting will be extended.
The softball stadium, which opened last year, now will have 1,200 permanent seats to go with the artificial-turf field, and the third and fourth games of the new season will be against defending national champion Oklahoma on Feb. 9-10.
While the athletic facilities – baseball, softball plus GCU Stadium (soccer, etc.), the Lopes Performance Center, the track, two intramural fields and outdoor basketball courts – anchor the west side of campus, the east-side residents still have intramural fields of their own.
And as much as the campus has grown, it still takes only five to 10 minutes to get from one side to the other, and Diamondback and Agave residents have access to golf cart shuttle services, too. In addition, they’ve found that it can be nice to be a little removed from all the action.
“It’s quieter over here,” said Chrysta McMahon, a resident director in Agave. “When we have events, we can really cater to our residents.”
As Bauman put it, “We love it over here. It’s kind of like a secret gem that people haven’t fully discovered.”
That’s about to change. But they might have to change the slogan to “location, location, location.”
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].