Colorado State University’s Board of Governors on Friday endorsed President Tony Frank’s recommendation to build an on-campus stadium to replace aging Hughes Stadium, built several miles from campus in the 1960s.“I believe we can attain a CSU-owned and operated facility with minimal changes to the full scope of the original design that meets the fiscal standard we’ve established: the lowest risk of any negative impact on the general fund,” Frank told the board, meeting at the CSU Denver Center in downtown. “Such a facility is, in my opinion, in the best long-term interests of Colorado State University.”
The board reached its decision following a 90-minute debate and nearly two hours of public comment from both sides on the stadium issue. The board vote was 8-0, with one abstention.
Board Chair Dorothy Horrell gave a passionate endorsement of the project prior to the vote.
“I cannot stand the thought of just settling in anything we do,” she said. “I’ve come to believe that the risk of not doing this is much greater than doing it.”
The journey to Friday’s vote was nearly three years in length. It included numerous community, campus and alumni input opportunities and – at times – contentious debate. In the end, Frank was convinced that the potential benefits of building a multiuse stadium for football, soccer, lacrosse, meetings and entertainment was in the best long-term interest of Colorado State.
Frank’s primary concern with the 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, citing CSU’s ability to thrive during the recent economic downturn.
“In fact, I believe it is likely that there will be no impact on the general fund, and I believe that the minimal level of risk that remains is more than adequately buffered by non-general fund sources,” he said.
Frank is also concerned about community impact, and vowed to continue working with city officials to limit the project’s impact.
As yet there is no set date when construction will begin. The hope is that the stadium will be open in time for the 2017 football and soccer seasons.
Board support was not unanimous. Joe Zimlich, board treasurer, said he could not endorse the project because of his concerns about stadium costs. Others in the crowd of nearly 100 raised similar concerns, including impact on the Fort Collins community and the balance between academics and athletics.
Community comments were equally split and similar to those made at previous board meetings, with supporters touting the benefits of an on-campus stadium on the athletic program and alumni participation, while detractors raised concerns about finances, traffic and impact on property values near the site.
“Can you imagine the traffic on Prospect (Road)?” asked Fort Collins resident Frank Johnson.
Supporters came from as far as Steamboat Springs to make their voices heard. Among them was former Denver Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen, a former CSU standout who lives in Denver.
“I believe this stadium represents a transformation away from mediocrity, that says Colorado State plans to be the best,” he said.
John Morris, interim director of athletics, said he was pleased that Frank and board chose to move forward with an on-campus stadium.
“For football and all athletics, this reinforces our commitment to excellence,” he said. “It will help us recruit the highest caliber student-athletes, and it shows our supporters we are determined to be successful at the highest level. And I’m also excited for our students, who will now get to experience all of the positive things that an on-campus stadium brings to a university.”