Grand Canyon University is to announce the location of its new campus today. And it's nowhere near Tucson.
The university has decided to build in the Phoenix area's East Valley.
University officials said the move means any plans it had for Tucson have been put on hold indefinitely. But it doesn't rule out Tucson in the future.
"All indicators tell us that the greater Tucson area is a wonderful place for a GCU campus, and we remain committed to evaluating this option in the future," wrote Sara Dial, a member of the university's Board of Directors, in an email to Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities. "For now, we would like to put our site selection process on hold while we finalize the details for our East Valley campus."
While the exact city won't be revealed until the press conference, the university solicited bids from Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek and Tempe.
Joe Snell, CEO of TREO, wrote in an email that his organization will continue working with GCU, so if the university does plan on expanding, the expansion will occur in Southern Arizona.
As for why it selected the East Valley, Dial said the area offered everything the school was seeking in a new location: 100 acres, near major freeways and residential areas attractive to students, and a commitment from developers to add retail amenities catering to students.
Grand Canyon had considered a number of sites in the Tucson region, most notably El Rio Golf Course. But plans for building on the west-side golf course were quickly jettisoned after neighbors vehemently opposed the idea.
Once the uproar over El Rio began, talks between the city and university soured, said Tucson Metro Chamber President and CEO Mike Varney.
"I hope we can be better hosts next time," Varney said. "We didn't play our cards as well as we should have."
If the city wants to attract quality businesses to the region, it's going to have to modify its approach, he said.
"Whenever opportunity knocks, we have to have a mind-set of 'yes,' instead of a mind-set of 'no' or 'maybe.' Starting with 'yes' means having a very positive attitude, giving the people behind it the welcome mat they deserve and then working out the details," Varney said. "The details might not work out every time ... (but) we can ill-afford ... to not maximize the opportunity when it knocks on the door."
Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4243.