The sale’s complete. The sale’s complete.

That means you need no longer ask “if” backers will build a university campus in Payson. Now it’s a question of “when.”

No doubt about it: Hard work remains. But also you need no longer doubt whether we’ll have a university here in Payson.

Of course, we’ll feel better when Arizona State University President Michael Crow makes a trip to Payson to announce plans to build a 6,000-student campus here. We’re a little unsettled he hasn’t yet done that. We’re not sure what ASU is waiting for — and have learned the hard way that everything’s always more complicated than it looked with this project. But we hope ASU will now move forward, not that distant and unpredictable bureaucracies can no longer inflict a year-long delay for no particular reason.

The backers of the Payson campus offer an enormous prize for ASU: The model for building a state college system, despite the Legislature’s dwindling support for our universities. But no matter: If ASU doesn’t see the benefit — we’re confident that Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona or a private college will jump at the chance to operate a campus here.

Those who have fought so hard and so long have earned the gratitude of the community, whose economic future they have so greatly benefited. The project proved far more complex and difficult than they suspected — and no doubt difficulties remain. Still, they pressed on against all the odds and all the doubts to achieve something that will prove a blessing to this community for years to come.

Of course, not everyone wants to see a university built here. Will growth destroy the very qualities of Rim Country we most treasure? Will we lose the small-town feel, the friendly neighbors, the Milky Way at night, the elk bugling in the darkness?

We must not — which means we will have to make many more tough choices to protect what we love despite the growth that will come with the university.

But we don’t think Payson has the option of staying exactly the same. Growth will come — but what sort of growth shall we encourage? Do we want good jobs, year-round business and a diversified economy not so subject to the booms and busts of the housing and tourist cycle? We think so, and that’s why we have supported the university project through all these travails. It will bring growth — but balanced and healthy growth.

Naturally, the project will spur all kinds of debate as we move forward and grapple with the endless details.

But still, we have reached a welcome milestone.

The Alliance and the Foundation own the land now. They’ll build a university on that land. Everything — at long, long last — has changed.

It’s not “if,” it’s “when.”

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