CSU alumnus Brian Larson, his wife, Libby, and their three sons biked with friends to CSU’s first football game in the new stadium.
Written by Mary Guiden and Anne Manning
In the hours leading up to Colorado State University’s inaugural football game in its new on-campus stadium, Aug. 26, everything just came together — everything that makes Fort Collins the special place it is.
America’s Got Talent contestant Mandy Harvey — a former CSU student who is deaf — could be heard rehearsing parts of the national anthem. State Senator John Kefalas (’78) jogged by the new stadium near the New Belgium Porch, located in the north end zone. Throngs of fans making their way to the game walked westward on pathways north of the Lory Student Center while the Flobots, a hip-hop and rock band from Denver, played on the nearby lawn. Overheard in the crowd: “We were just talking about how beautiful the campus is.”
And for many, the day was a family affair.
Mark Meadows (’01) and his family, from Littleton, Colorado, made their way to the stadium by 8 a.m., after spending the night in their roomy recreational vehicle at Horsetooth Reservoir. Meadows and his wife, Sarah, have attended CSU football games for the last 13 years, and their tailgate crew now numbers between 60 to 70 people at each game.
What’s his favorite part of the new Game Day experience? That the stadium is on campus, he said. “It’s bringing everybody together,” said Meadows, who was all smiles. “Look at this, have you ever seen it like this? It’s awesome, it’s the way it should be.”
Having the new stadium on campus makes Fort Collins a real college town, he added.
“When a game was at Hughes, nobody even knew a game was going on,” Meadows said. “This is the way it should be. This is the way most colleges are: You get school spirit going, it brings people together, and it brings people to campus to give back.”
Greg and Cindy Mayo
Many game-goers took advantage of the City of Fort Collins’ MAX Bus Rapid Transit, which added 16 extra buses to accommodate increased game day traffic. Among these non-drivers were Timnath residents and longtime season ticket holders Greg and Cindy Mayo. They boarded the MAX at the South Transit Center just after 8 a.m. “We figured parking would be a nightmare, which is why we’re here on the MAX,” Cindy Mayo said.
The Mayos hopped off the bus at University Station. They walked over to a leisurely tailgate north of the student center, hosted by their son’s BBQ catering business, Porky’s Pit Crew.
Brian Larson (’01, ’09) traveled to the game by bicycle on the Spring Creek Trail with his wife, Libby, and sons Dylan, 12, Joshua, 8, and Caleb, 6.
“We’ve been excited for [the stadium] since they announced it,” he said. The first CSU football game he attended was a bowl game versus Kansas State University in 1995, prior to becoming a student at CSU (yes, he remembers all the details of that contest).
Larson, echoing Meadows’ comments, said the new stadium will bring the Fort Collins community back to campus. “It’s going to help the football team succeed,” he added, which was indeed true on this day, as the Rams posted a 58-27 victory over Oregon State.
The Leinweber family – John, parents Len and Judy, and John’s girlfriend, Cadie Crean – enjoyed a low-key tailgate in a corner of the Engineering parking lot. The only thing missing was John’s brother, Nick Leinweber, a 2003 civil engineering alumnus and enthusiastic Rams fan who loves loud costumes for game days. Stationed in Hawaii as a member of the U.S. Navy, Nick had to miss the Oregon State game, but he plans to attend the Sept. 30 matchup with the University of Hawaii.
His little brother John represented Ram pride well, though – face painted green, with a spikey orange wig. “I just love CSU football,” John said, who served in the Marine Corps and never went to CSU. He started attending football games with his brother, and he plans to continue.
On the stadium’s north side, Steven and Stephanie Watson wrangled two small children – the siblings of Rams middle linebacker Josh Watson. The Watsons traveled from DeSoto, Texas, to watch their son, Josh, play his first game in his team’s new home. Also joining the family was Josh’s cousin, Javon Williams.
“It’s beautiful,” Steven Watson, wearing his son’s No. 55 jersey, said of the new digs. “I’ve always had a great experience here in Fort Collins, but this new stadium – I’m speechless.”
Having the stadium where students can access it, added Stephanie Watson, “will promote student life.”
“This was the perfect move for CSU,” Steven continued. “Most colleges you go to, having an on-campus stadium makes it more accessible for students. Some students don’t have cars, or money to pay for gas, so being on campus, it’s perfect. It couldn’t have been a better move.” He also expects the new stadium to help with recruiting and to grow the football program to compete with “any of your Power Five campuses.”
The Watsons did not detect any nerves from their son, Josh, for his first game day of the year. “Josh? He’s fine. He’s ready,” Steven said.
Mayah Plucinski, Army ROTC member and a CSU junior studying biological science, was helping out before the game at the bike valet east of the stadium. She was part of the team that would hold the enormous American flag used in the pregame ceremonies.
“I’m very excited to see the architecture,” she said. Plucinski had had a sneak peek the day before, during rehearsals. Her thoughts? “It was pretty breathtaking. It definitely is awesome for everyone to come on this day, so everyone knows the campus better.”
Alonzo Tyson and Deion James
Alonzo Tyson and Deion James, members of CSU’s men’s basketball team, made their way to the game by foot. “I’m hyped about going to the game,” said Tyson, who transferred to CSU earlier this year from Cape Fear Community College in North Carolina.
James, a junior studying applied computing technology, said he was looking forward to the “great overall energy” in the new stadium.
“I’m wanting them to get this win,” Tyson added. His wish was granted.