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Home Field Advantage: CSU Builds On-Campus Stadium

After 47 years of playing football at the off-campus Hughes Stadium, Colorado State University plans to bring the game back to the Fort Collins campus in 2017. The university plans to finance the $250 million stadium through a series of taxable and tax-exempt bonds, with a broad pledge from the university system. Rendering depicts the as-yet unnamed stadium, which is expected to seat 36,000.

Colorado State University envisions the new stadium as a “multi-purpose facility” that will include rooms for meetings and entertainment, as well as the venue for the Rams’ football, soccer and lacrosse teams. Some Fort Collins residents expressed concern about traffic around the stadium on game days, and plans to build the stadium drew protests in March.

The new CSU stadium will take the site of the existing Plant Environmental Research Center, constructed in 1949. Located near Rocky Mountain National Park, CSU is Colorado’s agricultural and veterinary college while also serving other major areas of study. The stadium has been under consideration for three years that included numerous community, campus and alumni input opportunities and – at times – contentious debate.

Colorado State University’s new stadium would include luxury amenities and other attractions to businesses in the region. A Stadium Advisory Committee reported in 2012 that a new stadium would offer the potential for the university to increase its connection with the community. The committee based its research on facilities Oklahoma State University, the University of Utah, Kansas State University, Boise State University, University of Wyoming, and the University of Minnesota.

An end-zone view of the stadium as rendered by architects. Ground-breaking on the stadium on the Fort Collins campus is expected this summer.

The stadium design was provided to experts in estimating construction costs for stadiums, according to the Stadium Advisory Committee. The experts estimated that the entire facility could be built for $246 million. That does not include the estimated $51 million cost of moving greenhouses and other campus facilities already at the site.

Colorado State University President Tony Frank said he believes the university can raise up to $50 million in private funds for a new stadium but prefers to use the donations to pay off the annual bond payments rather than to offset the total cost of construction. The $50 million goal is less than half of the original target.

Colorado State University President Tony Frank said he believes the university can raise up to $50 million in private funds for a new stadium but prefers to use the donations to pay off the annual bond payments rather than to offset the total cost of construction. The $50 million goal is less than half of the original target.

Promoters say a new on-campus stadium will reinvigorate the athletic program, attract better coaches and players, and ultimately improve the CSU Rams football team. The also said an improved team will garner increased national attention, increasing the profile of CSU as a university since athletics are often a window to the university. Opponents argued that good players and coaches lead to improved teams, and the relationship to a new stadium is tenuous, and represents “putting the cart before the horse,” according to research report.

Colorado State University President Tony Frank makes his recommendation to the CSU Board of Governors Dec. 5. Frank said his primary concern with the stadium project has been making sure the construction does not impact CSU’s general fund. He said the financing plan, which includes new revenue streams created by the stadium, presents minimal financial risk.

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