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August 2, 2013

LSFF represents 'new day for Arizona football'

Cramming inside the elevator on the lobby of the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, there were wisecracks to be made about the slow closing doors.

But there was not much else to nitpick.

After two years covering the Arizona football team, there was never that one thing that made you stop and say, "Wow." The LSFF did that a few times, as athletic director Greg Byrne led the media on a tour Thursday afternoon.

And like those elevator doors, the football program is aware that the $74 million spaceship is just one step in closing the gap with the rest of the country.

"We've heard since Day 1: We want to get to the Rose Bowl," Byrne said, standing on the artificial FieldTurf CoolPlay surface of Arizona Stadium. "We want to be able to compete for championships in football, as well; this is the foundation to give us this chance."

Byrne recalled taking over the job three years ago, walking out to a spring football practice on his first day and meeting with former football coach Mike Stoops. Facilities was the first topic of conversation.

Traveling around the country and seeing the various upgrades at other schools, Byrne said he knew there had to be "significant improvements" made for Arizona to keep up and compete.

Well, at first glance, the LSFF definitely gets the stamp of approval from the people that matter most: student-athletes and recruits.

Before walking inside, there was place-kicker Jake Smith making his way for the entrance. True freshmen Jacob Alsadek and Zachary Green followed minutes later. Will Parks was sitting in the locker room. Jake Fischer, Kyle Kelley and Yamen Sanders were hard at work in the spacious weight room. Blake Brady was getting checked out in the trainer's room.

The LSFF is their new home away from home. Seeing Shane Wilson play video games in the players' lounge - complete with a pool table, two pop-a-shot machines and a ping-pong table - as well as Bear Down Kitchen on the fourth floor, the only thing missing may be a bed to sleep on.

But as Byrne said prior to the spring game in April, the idea is to make it the only destination for the players, outside of classes and practices.

"There's so many nice things in there, it's hard to pick out one thing and say, 'This is my favorite,'" receiver Terrence Miller told GOAZCATS.com last week at Pac-12 Conference media day.

And, at the time, Miller had yet to explore the entire facility.

Another line Miller used was echoed by new quarterback Connor Brewer, who transferred from Texas earlier this week.

"Top of the line," Brewer recalled over the phone, thinking back to the visit prior to making his decision. And it was a visit that blew him away enough to cancel plans to check out Louisville and Vanderbilt.

Brewer, who was originally recruited by the Wildcats out of high school in 2012, added that there is a "whole new culture" this time around.

"That was a big thing to me. Obviously, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what the facilities are like," Brewer said. "But it shows the direction the program is going.

"The new weight room, the locker room, the offices - everything is just brand new. Very modern and sleek."

Then, there are the fans. Even for those without seats in the north end zone, a ramp on the northeast side connects to patio area - where the restrooms and other amenities have been upgraded. So it will not be exclusive to just those with tickets.

The Sands Club on the fifth floor is there for those looking to shell out the bigger bucks. The seating area at that level comes with flat-screen TVs for those who do not want to miss their favorite reality TV show while at the game.

Byrne wanted to enhance the fan experience, well aware of the flock that would exit games early. The next step is awaiting the results on game days, but, like those elevator doors, you can already see the gap slowly closing.

"We want to thank the Stevens family, the Lowell family, the Sands family, and so many other families that made this thing a reality," Byrne said.

"It's a new day for Arizona football."

GOAZCATS.com staff writer Kyle Kensing contributed to this report.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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