Aerial view of Folsom Field on the Boulder campus

DALLAS — The University of Colorado Board of Regents on Wednesday unanimously approved $140 million to remodel athletic facilities for the CU Boulder campus with some revenue for the project coming from a proposed retail center.

After deep cuts in state funding for higher education in Colorado, CU chancellor Philip DiStefano emphasized that improvements to the Folsom Field football stadium and other improvements would not impair academic programs.

"The project will be derived solely from the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, and only auxiliary, non-state funds will be utilized for the project," DiStefano told the board.  "The Athletics Complex project will not break ground until sufficient pledged donations and corporate sponsorships have been identified to support at least one-third of the cost of the building."

Athletic officials presented a plan that includes a 12,000-square-foot retail area at the south end of the Folsom Field football stadium and a tail-gating area for game days.

CU officials have not identified what form of debt the project might use but said they hope to have it completed in 2015.

"Given the availability of funds, design-build proposals could be issued early in 2014, followed by the start of construction in summer 2014," according to a report submitted to the board.

CU would join 30 other members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association that have allocated more than $3.3 billion for football stadium improvements over the past two years.

Colorado State University, 60 miles to the north, is in the process of raising funds for a $226 million football stadium on the Fort Collins campus while abandoning the current stadium.

CU athletic department officials told regents that the Boulder campus needed the stadium upgrades to compete with other universities in the Pac 10 Conference.

The University of Washington recently completed a $250 million remodeling of its football stadium and facilities on the Seattle campus. The University of California at Berkeley Golden Bears play in a stadium that recently received a $320 million remodel.  The University of Arizona spent $72 million on its stadium, while the University of Southern California is planning to invest $70 million in upgrades to the historic Los Angeles Coliseum.

"On an average basis, the athletic operating expenses of Division I universities have nearly doubled since 2004 compared to 58% for total expenses," according to Moody's senior analyst Dennis M. Gephardt, who authored a report on the risks of soaring stadium debt, including growing litigation over head injuries, declining student attendance and other factors.

The CU plans call for new parking and premium seating at the stadium, expansion of the football locker room from 4,500 square feet to more than 16,000, and the construction of a 21,000-square-foot sports performance center that would be run in conjunction with the university's Anschutz Medical Center.

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