Jan 162012
 
Authors: Allison Sylte

If new Athletics Director Jack Graham has his way, CSU might be seeing a brand new on-campus football stadium come 2014.

But for the stadium planning committee, this date is anything but set in stone.

“The 2014 date is a personal goal that Jack [Graham] has put out there. It’s certainly aggressive and ambitious,” said CSU Spokesman Kyle Henley. “The committee’s going to take time to make sure they’ve made the right decision. We have yet to set a start date for construction, or a date for when we’re going to open the facility.”

“Jack has set a very aggressive personal goal,” said Amy Parsons, the vice president for University Operations, in an email to the Collegian. “It would be remarkable if a project of this scope could meet that timeline, but it’s part of Jack’s role to push and challenge us.”

Graham could not be reached to comment for this article.

The committee, which will be co-chaired by Graham and Parsons, is set to have its first meeting later this month.

While Parsons said it’s too early to discuss the committee’s exact specific action items, she did say one of the first goals will be to set up a process for accepting public input.

“This is critical, because we’re committed to conducting this process in an inclusive, deliberate and transparent manner,” Parsons said.

A $100 million dollar dream

In a December interview, CSU President Tony Frank said he envisions private donors paying for the bulk of what he expects to be a $100-200 million project, while using absolutely none of CSU’s dwindling state funding.

The goal, Frank said, is for the stadium to be funded by a few select big-ticket donors, including a multi-million dollar lead donation that would theoretically include naming rights and bonding the difference.

“I have not anticipated that we need to raise student fees for this project,” Frank said.
One of CSU’s most prominent big ticket donors, Bohemian Foundation founder Pat Stryker, released a statement about the project last week.

“Whether the Rams stay anchored at their current off-campus stadium or ultimately move to a new home on-campus, I look forward to cheering them on to victory, and I have faith in the future success of the football program,” Stryker said.

Less than 10 years ago, Stryker donated $15.2 million to renovate Hughes, according to RamNation.com, and her donations have played a role in recent landscaping improvements to the property.

Henley said there haven’t been specific discussions about marketing the stadium project to donors.

“That would be getting pretty ahead of ourselves, to say, ‘This is how we’re going to market this,’” Henley said. “That’s for the committee to decide.”

In a 2005 RamNation article that detailed the Hughes renovations, when asked whether CSU would build an on-campus stadium if given $100 million, Associate Athletics Director Doug Max said $100 million wouldn’t be nearly enough.

According to the article, the university explored the possibility of an on-campus stadium from 2001 to 2005, but determined that the costs for infrastructure, streets and parking would be phenomenal.

The story also attributed Max saying that CSU couldn’t build a facility on par with Hughes for $100 to $150 million.

Max was not available to comment for this article, and Henley and Parsons said they are unfamiliar with the circumstances in 2005.

“I haven’t seen that article nor have I seen a report from that period, so I’m really can’t speak to that,” Parsons said. “We are, however, committed to taking a fresh look at this proposal in 2012.”

“I can’t really speak to 2005, but I can say that there’s been informal discussion about an on-campus stadium for years, through many administrations,” Henley said. “But there was no formal, ‘Let’s sit down and discuss this.’”

Getting the community involved

To solicit community input, CSU has created a public suggestion box at CSURams.com specifically asking for feedback about location and what amenities the stadium would include.

“We’re looking at making a process that’s really thorough, really transparent,” Henley said. “If we’re going to do this, we’re also going to do our due diligence.”

While Parsons said the committee hasn’t quite narrowed down locations, Frank said potential locations include the area south of Moby Arena, the parking lot west of Summit Hall and south of Prospect on Centre Avenue, near where the controversial off-campus housing project the Grove is being built.

In light of being thorough and transparent, Parsons said the stadium committee has been selected to be as diverse as possible, reflecting as many of the different interests at CSU as possible.

“Regarding the committee, it is structured so that we have representatives from major stakeholder groups — students, faculty, staff, alumni, community representatives and the city of Fort Collins,” Parsons said. “It’s important to have broad representation to ensure that we look thoroughly at all the issues in a holistic fashion.”

Associated Students of CSU President Eric Berlinberg, who is tasked with representing students in the committee, said his first goal is to assess the feasibility of the stadium.

“It’s a potentially polarizing issue, but most of the feedback I’ve gotten is very positive. It’s been exciting,” Berlinberg said. “Right now though, I think that our goal is just to say, ‘Is this possible?’”

Parsons seconded this.

“The committee will work as quickly as possible, but we aren’t going to compromise the process or cut corners,” she said.

An opposition forms

While Frank and stadium committee members have vowed that the process would be as open and transparent as possible, Fort Collins resident and former CSU donor Bob Vangermeersch said he thinks this is hardly a reality.

And to make sure the public gets input he thinks it deserves, he has organized, “Save Our Stadium: Hughes.”

“It appears to the folks that I’ve spoken to, this whole program’s getting rammed down our throats without any sort of process or plan,” Vangermeersch said. “When you’re spending that kind of money and making these type of changes, you better hope it’s a perfect process.”
“Save Our Stadium” is having an organizational meeting at Westminster Presbyterian Church on 1709 W. Elizabeth St. on Jan. 25.

In the future, Vangermeersch said he hopes to send messages to the CSU System Board of Governors, state legislators and the administration that, “CSU should stick to educating our kids as opposed to building stadiums.”

“The attitude I’ve heard so far is that the administration is saying, ‘Buck up guys, you’re going to get this thing no matter what.’” Vangermeersch said. “We want to be that opposing voice.”

Why now?

Both Frank and Berlinberg are aware that, on the heels of a 20 percent tuition increase, many students may have negative perceptions about recent investments in the athletic program, despite assurances from university officials that athletics and academics are separate funding streams.

“You run the risk of sending mixed messages to the public, sure,” Frank said. “But we need to set up a university with facilities that really attract students.”

“What’s the alternative?” Frank added. “It could be that we don’t build buildings, we don’t make improvements, we don’t strive for excellence. Our job, as leaders of this university, is to make sure that we look ahead.”

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

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