A new university in town

Arizona Christian moving to Glendale in Fall 2019
By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Glendale Star Staff Writer

Photo by Darrell Jackson

New signs are up at the entrance to the new Arizona Christian University at 59th Avenue and Greenway Road at the former Thunderbird School of Global Management campus.

Photo by Darrell Jackson

Hundreds pack the new Arizona Christian Events Center at the former Thunderbird School of Global Management during the Nov. 14 announcement that the school will be moving to Glendale.

Photo by Darrell Jackson

ACU President Len Munsil announces the school's move to Glendale Nov. 14.

Photo by Darrell Jackson

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers welcomes Arizona Christian University to Glendale during the Nov. 14 announcement that the school will take over the former Thunderbird School of Global Management.

 

“I could not be more excited to have Arizona Christian University relocating to Glendale and repurposing this historic property. This announcement is quite simply an answer to my prayers.” -- Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers

After 11 months of discussions, Arizona Christian University has found a new home for its campus and it will be located in the heart of Glendale as the school takes over the former Thunderbird School of Global Management campus beginning in August 2019.
“This is a win, win, win for everyone involved in this deal,” ACU president Len Munsil said. “This is an exchange agreement, where we take over this location and Arizona State University will get our old campus. We get a parcel of the same value with more acreage and the neighbors get what they want, which is education on the land.”
ACU will take over the 68-acre campus of the former Thunderbird school and bring in its current 800 students and 200 faculty in August next year.
Munsil said ACU has been evaluating options for a new campus that would provide its students and faculty with improved academic and sports facilities and additional space for classrooms and on-campus housing.
“It is nine miles from our current campus in a tremendous community and for us give us the opportunity to grow,” Munsil said. “With our growing athletics and performing arts programs, we now have the chance to continue to grow both of them.”
He added that the current ACU campus, as well as dorms, has been at capacity for two years as the school continues to be one of the top colleges in the U.S. News and World Report annual rankings.
“We been thrilled to be recognized as a ‘Best College’ by U.S. News & World Report for two consecutive years,” Munsil said. “It has been a great indicator that we are building a national reputation for excellence.”
ACU is ranked among the Best Regional Colleges in the West, and is the only ranked Arizona school in this category. The category covers colleges and universities from 15 western states, including California, Texas, Oklahoma, Washington and Oregon. Schools were ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence. Of Arizona’s 14 universities, for the second straight year, ACU achieved the highest ranking in its category of any university in the state.
When ASU moved Thunderbird School of Global Management to downtown Phoenix last year, residents questioned the viability of getting another school onto the site and Munsil said this was key to the deal.
“While listening to the neighbors, we felt it would be a perfect fit for them as well as ACU,” Munsil said. “Again, this is a win for ACU, a win for ASU and a win for the neighbors.”

Nov. 14 announcement
The school bused in eight loads of students to a presentation Nov. 14 officially announcing the school’s move to Glendale with more than 100 students cheering and clapping as Munsil made the move official.
“As you know, we are here today to announce the completion of a land exchange agreement with ASU and the Thunderbird School of Global Management that is truly an example of a win, win, win transaction,” Munsil said. “Next fall in 2019, ACU will move to this campus for all of its transactions.”
For the past several months, ACU has been working with ASU on a land exchange agreement, which involves the exchange of the current 20-acre campus at Cactus Road and 25th Street for nearly 69 acres at Greenway Road and 59th Avenue.
“ACU has been landlocked and at capacity for parking and dorms at our current location,” Munsil said. “Now we will have sufficient space for athletics and performing arts expansion as well as more classrooms and administration space with plenty of room to grow.”
The former campus had 140,000 square feet of building space while the new campus will have more than 500,000 square feet. ACU also adds a 1,000-seat event center, which the current campus does not have, and more than 1,100 parking spaces.
“I could not be more excited to have Arizona Christian University relocating to Glendale and repurposing this historic property,” Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers said. “This announcement is quite simply an answer to my prayers.”
Weiers said the city had been discussing the property with ASU once they announced they would be moving the Thunderbird school to downtown Phoenix last year.
“When ASU announced they would be moving, I was in shock that Thunderbird would be moving, but respected the decision,” Weiers said. “We began working on a new vision for this campus that has been vital to Glendale for over 70 years.”
Thunderbird originally opened in 1941 as the first U.S. Army air-training base in the Phoenix area, before becoming a university campus in 1946.
Weiers said he had early discussion with Munsil, who expressed his desire to move ACU to Glendale nearly a year ago.
“When he told me that, I got pumped and later discussed with (ASU President Michael) Crow and I told him I would do anything in my power to make this happen,” Weiers said. “To students, parents and administrators of ACU, I am so excited that I can finally say welcome to Glendale. I truly hope you feel at home here and ACU will always have a home and I believe this is a match made in heaven.”

City excited about growth
Sahuaro District Councilmember Ray Malnar, whose district the campus anchors, said the announcement was huge for the city.
“Specifically for the (Sahuaro) district, the people were so concerned about what was going to happen to this historic campus,” Malnar said. “I have gotten calls from citizens, alumni and former staff telling me you cannot tear down this campus.”
With ACU coming in, Malnar was quick to point to the success of getting the school to the city.
“When I heard that ACU was interested, I was thrilled, because now this campus will stay mostly intact,” Malnar said. “It is a beautiful campus and I did not want to see this campus disappear from my district.”
Staff was quick to point to projected growth at nearby shopping centers that have been nearly empty for years.
“This is guaranteed growth because you are now going to have a vibrant campus and ACU has plans for future growth,” Malnar said. “The shopping center is sure to gain businesses with nearly 1,000 people expected to start at this campus next fall.”
Weiers also pointed to the economic expansion within the city limits.
“This is a massive shot in the arm for this area, not just economically, but these students are required to do community service, which is an amazing opportunity in the city,” Weiers said. “I have tried to find a negative with this deal and I just cannot find a negative at all.”

Expansion and athletics
Munsil added that ACU is planning to grow and now they will have the space to build facilities for their teams.
“Our timetable is to begin construction as soon as we can build them,” Munsil said. “We would like to have some ready by next fall.”
He added that the plan was to build them along 59th Avenue on the west side of the campus.
ACU plays in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), participating in the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) and will have a natural rival in Ottawa University in Surprise.
“We look forward to building our facilities and having a great experience for our fans that want to watch our teams grow,” Munsil said.
Plans showcased at the announcement have the school building a football stadium, baseball, softball and soccer fields at the new location.
Munsil added that come next fall, they expect to have in place and operating on campus a turf field for soccer and football practices and games, baseball and softball fields and sand volleyball courts.
Expansion plans in the near future also include a football stadium for football and track, as well as a tennis complex.
ACU is a private, non-profit, Christian university with a wide variety of majors and areas of study preparing students for successful careers.

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