A tumbleweed rolling across a heat-baked and cracked blacktop toward the boarded up windows and barbed wire fence is all that was missing to complete the surreal post-apocalyptic scene. Unfortunately, this was not the opening from next summer’s blockbuster zombie movie, but rather a Thursday afternoon trip to what used to be a nearby Staples office supply store. This example is not unusual in the Mesa-Fiesta District, and could describe any of a dozen of dilapidated commercial building sites that surround Mesa Community College.
Once was the epicenter of business and entertainment in the East Valley, the Mesa-Fiesta District continues a decline in business and commercial interests that began about a decade ago. Areas such as the Fiesta Village, at the corner of Alma School and Southern Ave, act as a prime example of the decay that has remained an eyesore to the City of Mesa and its residents for years. The resulting lack of employment, recreational opportunities and overall quality of life have a direct impact on Mesa Community College, its student body, and other stakeholders in the surrounding communities.
However, through a joint effort between Mesa Community College, The Mesa Public Schools District and the City of Mesa, the Mesa-Fiesta District may be on the verge of a new and exciting phase that will have a resounding impact on the student body of MCC as well as the City of Mesa and its residents for decades to come.
The ambitious project revolves around a Multi-Use Sports Complex to be built on the Southern and Dobson campus of Mesa Community College. As only the second of its kind in the United States, the opportunities for the community, MCC athletes, and the student body at large are incredible.
The project would encompass nearly half of the campus and would include an event center with a capacity of 5,000 to 7,000 people, a football arena and a swimming and diving aquatics center.
There would be improvements to the playing fields and new parking structures to accommodate such venues. The plan also allows for newly designed walkways and bike paths that would integrate the facilities with the surrounding community and its businesses.
The project would likely be completed in conjunction with the Mesa “Streetscape” project. The “Streetscape” project is the City of Mesa plan for the area of Southern Avenue, between Alma School and Dobson Road. According to Dennis Kavanaugh, Mesa City councilman, the city has allocated $10 million for improvements to the area. This project may include a narrowing of Southern Avenue to one lane in each direction between Alma School and Dobson Road and a new police substation at Southern Avenue and Alma School. Both measures aim to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment.
“The size of the facilities would be appropriate for a school the size of Mesa Community College,” Jared A. Langkilde, director of development for Mesa Community College, said. “This is notable considering that MCC is larger than 80 percent of the colleges in the United States.”
The new facilities could also accommodate local, state and regional championship level games as well as some national events. An additional benefit of the project would be the ability to accommodate a large scale emergency center for the area. In the case of a natural or man-made disaster, no facilities exist in the immediate area that could stage such an event.
Funding for the project will likely be a joint effort between both public and private sectors. While multiple naming rights and marketing opportunities will be available to the private sector, the residents of Mesa will likely be asked to make the final decision. The overall impact on MCC and the entire community will be better known once the project’s feasibility study is completed later this year. This study was authorized through a partnership of Mesa Community College, The Mesa Public Schools District and the City of Mesa and is critical to understanding the overall impact to the community.
However, with the momentum the project has gained recently, Mesa voters could see the bond issue on the ballet by November 2012. Unlike other proposed bond measures like the Mesa Waveyard, touted as the No. 1 tourist attraction in the Valley and approved by voters in 2008, the city could actually get this project done.
“These are facilities ‘For the community – By the community,’ ” Langkilde said. “It’s just a matter of cooperation and collaboration.”
The benefits to the community, Mesa Community College, its athletes and the overall student body would appear to be huge in scope once the project is completed. By drawing an estimated one million new people to the Mesa-Fiesta District each year, people could all be involved in a time of growth and prosperity that the area has not seen in decades.