top of page
Patterson Observatory.jpg

University South Foundation Announces its Commitment to Ensuring Campus in Sierra Vista is Preserved for Higher Education Purposes.

Sierra Vista, AZ – (February 23, 2024) – University South Foundation, Inc. (USF) announced today its unwavering commitment to preserving the property currently in use by UArizona and the College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST) for higher education purposes serving the students and residents of Cochise County and Southern Arizona. The campus, which started as a singular building in 1992 and is now named Groth Hall, served as a University of Arizona (UA) branch campus.


But it was not just any standard UA campus – it was a campus built by the community, for the community. The Cracchiolo Family of Bella Vista Ranches donated the 13 acres that make up the campus today. Karol George of KE&G built Groth Hall at cost. Young Block provided brick at half price. Huachuca Federal Credit Union (now American Southwest Credit Union) contributed $35,000 towards construction costs, and Valley National Bank, a local bank at the time, provided the remaining required financing. Bob Wick of Wick Communications and a local artist contributed one-of-a-kind bronze sculptures, and countless community supporters lobbied with the Arizona State Legislature and made significant monetary donations – all of whose names can be viewed on the many plaques throughout the property.


In just over ten years, the campus expanded significantly with four additional buildings, offering over 45,000 sq. ft. of space for professional offices, state-of-the-art computer labs, classrooms, and common areas for student activities. Educational programs flourished, granting bachelor’s degrees in applied science in business, computer science, history, elementary and secondary education, and psychology without students needing to leave the community. Campus Drive became a pivotal entrance to Sierra Vista’s higher education corridor.


Today, the campus is a beautifully landscaped oasis featuring distinctive architectural design and transitional spaces for many uses, including a variety of UArizona Cooperative Extension classes. It is also home to two of Sierra Vista’s most treasured community jewels: Patterson Observatory and the Discovery Gardens.


The Huachuca Astronomy Club volunteers have continuously operated Patterson Observatory, funded by David Patterson in 2004. It features a 16-foot dome and houses a Ritchey-Chretien telescope with a 20-inch aperture. As a designated NASA Space Place and member of the NASA Space Network, Patterson welcomes more than 1,500 people a year, ranging from educational field trips and youth organizations learning about astronomy to public nights viewing the spectacular Southern Arizona night skies.


The Discovery Gardens, operated and maintained by the volunteers of the Cochise County Master Gardeners and funded by Cooperative Extension and grants from organizations such as the Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona, welcomes more than 1,000 people each year through horticulture-based educational seminars, holiday celebrations, community events, youth field trips, private gatherings, or even to relish a secluded outdoor space and enjoy the quaint display of the deserts many possible landscape concepts.


Since the beginning of the campus, USF and UArizona have maintained a working partnership:  USF owns the property containing Groth Hall, Cooperative Extension, Patterson Observatory, and the Discovery Gardens and provides scholarships every year to Cochise County students. UArizona owns the property containing the Learning Resource Center and Academic Technology buildings.

In 2023, UArizona and CAST announced they would be leaving the campus and opening a facility on Sierra Vista’s West End better suited to their brand and space requirements. Despite the recent budget crisis faced by UArizona and the necessary postponement of many capital projects, including CAST’s move to the West End, USF is diligently working to ensure the campus remains a vital education asset for the community.


The campus is undergoing physical change. Cochise College’s campus expansion has prompted shifts in how some of the current campus offerings, such as the Discovery Gardens and Patterson Observatory, conduct community engagement efforts. While the exact trajectory of these changes remains uncertain—whether it involves broadening higher education classes beyond current offerings in Sierra Vista or transitioning to an entirely new educational focus—we are resolute in our mission of providing accessible higher education opportunities for our community. It's imperative to us that the legacy established by this community remains a vibrant cornerstone of our collective future.


Additionally, we are committed to the preservation of the Discovery Gardens and Patterson Observatory, recognizing their profound impact on the advancement of knowledge, learning, and fostering community outreach programs. Ensuring the future of the campus, its educational initiatives, and engagement with the community stands as a priority for USF.

The campus that contains Groth Hall, Patterson Observatory, and the Discovery Gardens is located at 1140 North Colombo Avenue, Sierra Vista, AZ 85635. It is a valuable asset built with the community’s input and support.

bottom of page