The vision and gifts of three Arizona State University alumni is coming to fruition after five years.
Steve Butterfield, Bill Kent and Jack Furst spearheaded the reinvention of and fundraising for Sun Devil Stadium, transforming it into a year-round, multiuse complex called ASU 365 Community Union.
During Saturday’s ASU football game the three men and their families were honored with the renaming of the student-athlete facility. The Butterfield, Kent, Furst Student-Athlete Facility, located on the north side of the stadium, houses the team locker room, medical facilities, coaches' offices, meeting space and a training table.
Kent, along with his wife, Julie, and their son, Buck, and Furst and his wife, Debra, attended the game and naming ceremony. Butterfield, who passed away in 2017, was represented by his sons, Brooks and Steve Jr., Steve’s wife, Mary, and their children, Joey, George and Stevie.
“The efforts and dedication by the Butterfield, Furst and Kent families to Sun Devil Athletics and our football program is insurmountable,” said Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson. “We graciously thank them for their leading contributions to the stadium reinvention and student-athlete facility, and are honored to be able to pay homage to their families for generations to come.”
When Butterfield, Kent and Furst collectively donated $40 million to make 365 Community Union a reality, they were not looking for naming rights on buildings. They all agreed to leave naming rights open to other donors while the ASU Foundation fundraised for the project.
“The three of us never really cared about the recognition of it,” Kent said. “We believed in the cause and certainly felt like we could have a much more competitive facility for the football program. We were all behind it from that perspective.”
After five years of fundraising, the ASU Foundation raised about $80 million for the capital project, and no other major donors came forward looking for naming rights. The ASU Foundation chose to recognize the Butterfield, Furst and Kent families as a result of their dedication and contributions to the campaign.
A vision beyond a stadium
Discussions to develop ASU 365 Community Union started in 2014 when Furst became more involved with ASU’s athletics through Sun Devil Athletics supporter Butterfield. At that time, there was talk of renovating the football stadium and ideas surfaced about what else could be done.
“I wanted to see if we could turn an athletic facility into a community union where you would have yield and utilization,” said Furst, the 2017 Founder’s Day Philanthropist of the Year. “Why couldn’t we, No. 1 in innovation, turn this into a community union and have something going on at the union 365 days a year? No one else is doing it. Why would you spend money just on a football field used seven times a year?”
The plan for ASU 365 Community Union is to create a place for fitness classes, concerts, festivals, farmers markets, restaurants, coffee bars, movie screenings, meetings and study areas. It will also house the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, Public Service Academy, the Global Sports Institute and a new studio for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Butterfield and Furst had several meetings with ASU President Michael M. Crow, ASU Enterprise Partners CEO Rick Shangraw Jr. and members of the athletics department to determine how to make their vision a reality without asking for tax dollars to fund the project.
Furst called his Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity friend Kent to see if he would like to be involved and contribute to the fundraising. Kent agreed to participate, and Furst said he would match what Kent donated.
“Jack and I had lots of conversations about how we could make this a bigger project than just a stadium,” Kent said. “I’m proud of being a part of that vision.”
The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts had a three-year student project to design the 365 Community Union and stadium reinvention.
The first phase of the union opened in September.
“The tireless effort and commitment provided by Jack Furst, Bill Kent, our late friend Steve Butterfield, and their families to fulfill their vision is impressive,” Shangraw said. “We appreciate their dedication to creating something bigger and better that will serve ASU and surrounding communities for years to come.”
Kent and Furst both say they are excited about the progress of ASU 365 Community Union and look forward to continued progress. Both said this project fits in well with ASU’s overall vision regarding innovation.
“One of the real challenges when you’re a big university — you have to create a heartfelt connection,” Furst said. “The 365 Community Union is that. The football stadium is like ASU’s Central Park.”