September 2, 2011
By Doug Carroll
Photos by David Blakeman, GCU Admissions Counselor
The spectacular renaissance of Grand Canyon University came into sharp focus Thursday with the formal opening of GCU Arena, an iconic, 5,000-seat facility envisioned as a magnet for its surrounding community and all of Arizona.
"It's been a fun ride," said Bob Machen, the University's senior vice president for campus development, standing on the spot where ground was broken barely 14 months earlier. "I've enjoyed it, and I love what we've done here."
GCU faculty and staff filled the west side and north end of the seating bowl for the celebration, which included a ceremonial ribbon cutting along with remarks from CEO Brian Mueller, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, Perini Building Co. President Craig Shaw and Antelope basketball coaches Russ Pennelland Trent May. The coaches introduced their teams to the crowd.
At the end of the program, employees were able to select basketball season tickets, choosing from tagged seats on the east side and north end. Students will sit in sections on the west side, behind the team benches.
Machen, who oversaw construction of US Airways Center, Chase Field and Comerica Theatre in downtown Phoenix, said he was "humbled" by the opportunity to steer a number of recent building projects at GCU. And there are more on the way.
"All that you see, we could not have done it without him," Mueller said of Machen's role in the Arena.
Gordon, who soon will be leaving office as mayor, also had high praise for Machen and the University.
"If you want to talk about the soul of a building, talk to the one who's building it," Gordon said. "This building has Bob Machen's heart and soul."
Referring to GCU as the city's "main partner" in its western sector, the mayor lauded the University for "pressing forward in the toughest of times" to build the facility.
"If it weren't for this University, many of our neighborhoods wouldn't have stayed as stable as they have," he said.
In a brief "State of the University" address, with highlights displayed on the Arena's high-definition video boards at the south end, Mueller said it wouldn't have been possible without the hard work of employees at all levels.
"Grand Canyon is growing because of the efforts all of you are putting in," he said to the gathering. "I hope you will see this building as your building."
Pennell echoed those sentiments.
"This building is beautiful," he said, "but the people in it are the key to its success. We're the blessed few who get a chance to live out our dreams (at GCU)."
May, who only recently saw a nearly completed Arena after extended time away from campus, acknowledged the "wow factor" of such a venue.
"It's a big opportunity," he said. "Our efforts are on a nice stage for people to see. We are in a privileged situation."
Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.