Feb 052012
Authors: Allison Sylte

Athletics Director Jack Graham wants the proposed on-campus stadium to be more than simply a venue for the football team.

Instead, he envisions it featuring condos, dorms, an alumni center, a Starbucks and even an Apple Store — things aimed at generating capitol and excitement around the new project.

“We do nothing with Hughes other than play football there six times a year,” Graham said Friday night during the first meeting of the Stadium Advisory Committee, which he will co-chair.

The meeting, which was held in the Lory Student Center North Ballroom, drew a standing-room-only crowd of CSU students and Fort Collins community members — about 30 of whom were sporting “Save Our Stadium” stickers in protest.

“It seems like a good idea,” said Marc Rope, a Fort Collins resident and “Save Our Stadium” supporter. “But I just don’t understand why they can’t do all of these things [Jack Graham] wants with the facility we already have. This whole ‘on-campus stadium’ thing just seems like a done deal to me.”

That very idea was disputed by CSU President Tony Frank during his opening remarks, when he said that the intent of the stadium committee is to research, discuss and recommend whether or not the project is feasible, not to actually start the process of building.

“If this committee determines the stadium is possible, that’s when the real work begins,” Frank said. “… [in this process] you not only need to dream big, you need to question, you need to challenge.”

Once the committee has determined the project’s feasibility, they are to give Frank a recommendation for whether or not it should proceed by a preliminary end of spring semester deadline.

Both Frank and Graham argued that the key justification for constructing the stadium is to increase CSU’s nationwide visibility to attract out-of-state students, a strategy Frank wants to pursue in order to maintain accessibility for in-state students.

Despite not being directly involved with the committee’s process, Frank did offer a few guidelines: that the stadium doesn’t go on the university’s greenspace, interfere with views, disturb neighbors or use funds from state appropriations or student fees.

While he didn’t address any of the funding solutions he had in mind for the stadium project, Graham, during an hour-long presentation, did say, “I don’t believe we can achieve our objectives [as an athletic program] by continuing to play at Hughes Stadium in the long-run.”

“I think that an on-campus stadium can unify our community in a way it’s never been before,” he added. “… “It’s a blast to win football games, but that’s not the endgame. It’s the means to an end.”

His key argument for building involved fostering alumni engagement and tradition — something he believes that the university is currently lacking. The stadium, he said, will serve as a centerpiece for the CSU and Fort Collins communities and with a central location, will boost the town’s economy.

“This project will be completely linked to alumni,” Graham said.

During her remarks, Vice President for University Operations and committee co-chair Amy Parsons said her biggest goal is to “engage our colleges and students in this process,” adding that she hopes to get students in the College of Business involved in different feasibility studies as the discussions move forward.

The Center for Public Deliberation, an impartial organization, will be charged with facilitating discussion between community members and the public as the committee moves forward. During Friday’s meeting, the Center handed out comment cards for the public.

Parsons said she envisions the committee meeting publicly monthly, punctuated with more frequent subcommittee meetings.

Despite assurances that the committee is going to be as transparent as possible, after the meeting, Rope said he still wasn’t quite convinced.

“I think it’s going to be an uphill battle to try and persuade [the committee] that this project isn’t in the best interest of Fort Collins,” Rope said. “… it feels like this thing is already a done deal.”

“The last thing I want through this process is that it polarizes the community,” Graham said.

Content Managing Editor Allison Sylte can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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