Feb 082005
Authors: Stephanie Lindberg

Football season may be over, but Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium is still seeing a lot of action.

Thanks to a $20.1 million donation given by the Bohemian Foundation in May 2003, the 37-year-old stadium is getting a facelift. A portion of the money was designated for the new University Center for the Arts, which opened last fall, and the remaining $15.2 million is being spent on bringing Hughes up to date.

Since its first home game Sept. 28, 1968, the stadium has been home to the Rams football team through the heat, cold, rain and snow.

While the stadium makeover is still in progress, the renovation is in its second stage after new stands were added in the north end zone and a new scoreboard was raised above the south end zone before the start of the 2004 season. Renovations have continued through the off-season, including the total demolition of the press box and club seating. Concrete reinforcements are also being put up around the stadium's perimeter.

"The project is moving along well," said Doug Max, associate athletic director. "The new concrete structures are being built up behind (the stadium). The existing structure is going to tie in. We're due to be finished in August, in time for the first home game in September. It's kind of a continuation of what we started last fall."

Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum Inc., one of the world's leading design service providers, is heading the improvements. The company has designed stadiums such as Coors Field and the Pepsi Center in Denver and has helped with numerous college stadium expansions. HOK partnered with local Fort Collins firm Aller-Lingle Architects, P.C., Max said.

While there have been problems with weather in December, Shaun Moscrip, the project manager with Aller-Lingle, said everything is pretty much on schedule.

"The major problems you can't plan on like we hit rock under the ground that we didn't expect," Moscrip said. "It's always just a matter of working through it and getting everything done."

New elevators, club seating, suites and lounges are among the projects to be completed before the first September home game, Moscrip said.

"We've made known there were things we wanted done," Max said of the process working with the design firms. "As they get closer they can tell what they want done. I think it enhances pride and unity. What's unique is there's going to be such an improvement."

Even though $15.2 million sounds like a lot of cash, putting it to work on a stadium renovation has proven to be difficult.

"As far as the budget, I would just say challenged," Max said. "Steel right now is at an all-time high. We've had challenges. We're just pressing forward. The budget's been tight but we're working hard to make every dollar count and stretch it as far as we can."

Another project is replacing the field itself, which in the past year has been subject to vandalism as well as the usual wear and tear caused by football cleats. The football team has already had its natural grass practice field replaced by a synthetic grass field, and Max said the players have liked the change. The synthetic field is made of synthetic grass pieces sown together that stand 2 inches off the field, much like regular grass. A sand and rubber mix is strewn about in the field to give the field the feel of a natural turf.

"That kind of field makes a lot of sense in Colorado, especially with the drought conditions," Max said. "Though it's fun playing on real grass."

Depending on how far along the other improvements are, Max said the new field may or may not be in place by the 2005 football season.

"It needed some improvement. It's an old stadium," said Josh Ackerman, a junior studying accounting. "I'd like more screens around the stadium. That's the way a lot of stadiums are and that's a good way to see the game even if you aren't close to the field."

Breanna Farnsworth, senior health and exercise sciences major, said while the new changes are good she is kind of disappointed with the new seating.

"I like the big screen and the extra seating is good, but it's not filled," Farnsworth said. "It's uneven with the grass on one side and the benches on the other. The seating would be nice if we could fill it up. It would make it louder."

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