Crunch time for CSU’s decision on new stadium construction

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Photo: CSU football (AP Photo)Colorado State University will decide in a few weeks if it will move forward with plan to build a $254 million football stadium.

The plan has been in the works for more than two years, and on Oct. 2 and 3, when the school’s board of governors meets, CSU President Tony Frank will recommend whether or not to continue, in light of fundraising to date and input from the Fort Collins community.

Frank hasn't said publicly what his recommendation will be, and declined CPR News' request for an interview on the matter. There are several arguments for and against the project, some of which reflect significant changes happening in college football nationwide. But if the board decides to go forward, there will almost certainly be a stadium built on the proposed on-campus site.

Constructing the new facility could make the football team more profitable and attract more students from out-of-state, who pay higher tuition than in-state students, as has happened at the University of Oregon, among other places. That could help the school recover from big funding cuts by the state over the past decade. It could also help get alumni more invested in the school, potentially making them more likely to donate to CSU's athletic and academic programs.

Currently the team plays at Hughes Stadium, which is a few miles away from campus. Kelly Lyell, a sports reporter for the Fort Collins Coloradoan, tells "Colorado Matters" host Ryan Warner that a lot of fans who come to games never step foot on campus. The school wants to change that.

Critics of the project bemoan the potential for added traffic congestion and parking woes in Fort Collins on game days, as well as costs that could fall on the city's taxpayers for infrastructure related to the stadium. A group called Save Our Stadium Hughes is also concerned about the environmental impacts a new stadium could have.

Photos: Colorado State mascot (AP Photo)Frank intends to raise the money to build the stadium from private donations and from revenues generated by the new facility, through things like vending and luxury box ticket sales. Through June the university had raised $24.2 million for the project of its stated $110 million goal; it has declined to update the figure since then.

Critics say the stadium won't generate as much revenue as the school hopes. Hughes Stadium doesn't fill up on game days, and attendance at college football games has been declining nationwide in recent years. "You can watch almost any game on the country now on television or on the Internet," Lyell says.

"It's quite a reach to think you're going to regularly fill 36,000 [seats] just by moving the stadium three miles east," he says, referring to the number of seats planned for the new on-campus stadium.

Lyell says there's also a concern the school would be putting too much emphasis on athletics. But he doesn't expect CSU to get rid of its football program altogether, as the University of Denver did in the 1960s, even if it doesn't build a new stadium.

"[Frank] sees it as a long-term, what do I want my university to look like 30 years from now, 50 years from now," Lyell says. "A stadium fits into that long-term, master plan of what [administrators and board members] would like Colorado State University to be."