It’s official. The famed and much-loved Arizona State University Camp Tontozona is up for sale. Just three months after the last group of football players walked off the field in front of a crowd of 3,200 fans, ASU has pulled the plug on a tradition going back nearly 50 years.
Every summer since 1960, the Sun Devils trek north, climbing the more than 4,500 feet up from the Valley to the mountain retreat near Kohl’s Ranch for weeks of strenuous training.
But all that’s forgotten and to be sold away, with the team now practicing at the school’s $8.4-million air-conditioned indoor practice facility in Tempe.
On Monday, ASU put the Tontozona property up for sale, asking any would-be buyer to preserve and enhance the existing buildings and use it as a camp, retreat or training facility.
“The interest of the university is to select the entity, which provides the maximum financial value to the university with reasonable terms, demonstrates a willingness to reuse the camp, and serves the best interest of Arizona State University,” the document states.
The 10-acres for sale will include 13 buildings and the football field adjacent to Tonto Creek. The university will keep a 29-acre site. The property up for sale was appraised at $5.3 million in February 2008.
There will be a site visit and pre-proposal conference held at the camp on Friday, Dec. 19 and all bid proposals are to be submitted to ASU by Jan. 12. After that, ASU will look through each bid and make a decision later in the year.
The decision to sell Tontozona has raised hopes by Rim Country officials who would like to see the new owner use the camp year-round, instead of intermittently as the university does now.
“The fact that it could go from being used one time a year, for one week, to year-round use, that has to have a positive impact for the area,” said Payson Regional Economic Development Executive Director Ken Volz.
When the camp was used during the year, it brought in a significant infusion of tourists and business to the community, Volz said. “But it was a vastly underutilized asset. Whoever buys it will see the incredible resources offered.”
Volz speculates an educational research park; five-star resort or housing development could utilize the space.
“It’s in an incredible setting and could be an asset to northern Gila County depending on what happens to the facility. It could have obvious implications for the area,” he said.
Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce manager John Stanton said he hopes the town works with whoever buys the land.
“It was a great, great institution in Rim Country,” he said. “We hope to find a way to keep that going.”
The camp has been used by ASU for preseason practice since legendary coach Frank Kush first took the Sun Devils there 48 years ago. ASU acquired the property seven years before Kush began using it, when the Arizona Board of Regents deeded it to the university.
The land was the perfect place for athletes to get away and practice without the distractions of the Valley, including (in later years) cell phones, and for fans to come and get up-close and personal with players.
Former Sun Devil players who practiced at the camp include Pat Tillman, Reggie Jackson, Danny White, John Jefferson, Randall McDaniel, Mark Malone and Charley Taylor, along with former Payson High School football coach Dan Dunn.
“It was a right of passage for players,” Volz said.
Whoever buys the land will acquire a piece of property rich in history and beauty.