DALLAS — Colorado State University is seeking to join the list of colleges and universities that have recently built or plan state-of-the-art football stadiums, despite studies showing the financial risks.
CSU president Tony Frank is expected to make a decision on whether to build a $246 million stadium on campus by the time the Board of Governors meets Oct. 4.
The proposal to replace CSU’s off-campus Hughes Stadium has drawn an emotional reaction from fans, students, alumni and residents of Fort Collins that is home to the university.
While the university located about 60 miles north of Denver has not committed to a bond issue, raising sufficient funds from voluntary contributions is not considered likely.
One of CSU’s former conference rivals Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, this year did christen a remodeled Amon Carter Stadium financed with $164 million in donations.
The CSU stadium is expected to cost more than $300 million if parking and related facilities are included.
Critics point to the fact that CSU cannot even sell out its 32,500-seat Hughes Stadium, located near scenic Horsetooth Reservoir at the base of the Rocky Mountain front range.
A consulting group hired by the university estimates that private donations could range from $45 million to $220 million, a gap that brought derision from some opponents.
The consultants’ report estimated the amount possibly financed against revenue streams to range from $128 million to $217 million, with the annual revenue streams tied to the financing projected to be $7.6 million to $13 million.
If revenue streams fall short, CSU would have to tap the general fund to pay debt service. At a July 31 public forum, Frank admitted that he was “struggling to figure out where my feeling is at on the financing issue,” according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper.
Frank said that having to dip into the general fund would mean that approving the stadium was the wrong choice. “If you’re saying we have the funding streams and we’ve got to backstop $10 million, $20 million, that’s a very different proposition than if you have to backstop $120 million,” Frank told the Coloradoan.
A second opinion on CSU’s feasibility study shows that a new stadium on campus could lose as much as $218 million or make as much as $58 million over the 30-year debt financing schedule.
“Capital budgeting analysis reveals that only under the most optimistic circumstances will the net present value of the revenue streams generated by the new stadium exceed the cost of the stadium,” wrote Joel Maxcy, author of the evaluation commissioned by Save Our Stadium Hughes. The SOS Hughes group opposes moving the stadium and proposes renovating the existing facility.
Maxcy, an associate professor of economics at Temple University, spoke with Frank in addition to making a presentation on campus.
According to the CSU feasibility study, the new stadium could generate anywhere from $173 million to $437 million in revenues stemming from sources such as naming rights and donations.
Maxcy’s study offered figures from recently constructed college football stadiums at the University of Akron and the University of Minnesota, along with five National Football League stadiums built between 1995 and 1999.
The Akron stadium generated about 22% revenue growth and the Minnesota stadium about 11%, according to Maxcy. Although the pro stadiums made money, the income fell below projections, he said.
Meanwhile, Fort Collins citizens will not get a say on the stadium this year after the City Council failed to pass a measure calling for a nonbinding referendum. The council could not break a 3-3 tie vote on whether to place the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot.