Colorado State AD Says New Stadium Will Happen

January 6, 2012 / Football
The Coloradoan, Kelly Lyell|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Jack Graham knows that his goal of having an on-campus stadium ready for the CSU football team’s 2014 home-opener is aggressive, but even that date “seems like a long time away from my perspective,” the new athletic director said Thursday.

Graham said he and a working group of six university employees have met with project managers, design firms and other experts from outside the university in the past few days to begin the process of turning the vision for an on-campus stadium into a conceptual design that can be used to begin the fundraising process. Rough estimates of the cost of such a stadium run from $100 million to $200 million.

Dozens of potential donors have come forward, Graham said, and an account has been opened at a local bank to collect money for the stadium project. The university also has formed an advisory committee of 15 people from the campus community and greater Fort Collins area that Graham said will work together on the stadium concept — determining potential sites, what the component parts of a stadium will be, a conceptual design of what it should look like and what the specific costs of each will be.

“Then we move into the process of vetting those ideas with our community, the campus community, the city of Fort Collins, the greater Fort Collins community, etc.” Graham said.

That process, he hopes, can be completed as soon as this spring.

At that point, architect’s renderings of the planned stadium can be shown to potential donors, and the university can start the bidding process to determine who will build it and what the cost will be.

Kyle Henley, a university spokesman, said CSU is committed to a public process once the university nails down a few more details. He said CSU wants to build a state-of-the-art green stadium through an open and transparent process, but that the project remains in the very early stages.

The university, he said, is “moving thoughtfully” to gather baseline data on costs, possible sites and designs and construction timeframes.

CSU put a virtual suggestion box, created at the suggestion of an alumnus, on its athletics website Thursday that offers the public an opportunity to offer comments and feedback about the stadium plan. Graham said it’s important that the people being asked to support the project have a voice in it and the opportunity to provide input to make it better.

“It’s a big game-changer for Colorado State athletics, so I’ve been working on it since the first minute I took this job,” said Graham, who was hired Dec. 1. “I may not have been actively working on it, but certainly I’ve been thinking about it 24 hours a day. I’m dreaming about it when I go to bed at night. Particularly now that we have a new football coach in place (Jim McElwain, hired Dec. 13), that’s the top priority in terms of project delivery for the athletic department.”

CSU’s first scheduled home game for the 2014 season is Sept. 6 against Tulsa. The experts that Graham has spoken to so far have said having a new stadium in place by that date is an ambitious goal but not impossible.

“It is very aggressive, but it doesn’t mean we’re ready to relent on that date,” Graham said. “I think it’s important that we take advantage of the conditions that exist right now to build a stadium. You cannot borrow money at cheaper rates than you can right now; interest rates are so low, so the cost of money is very affordable. So, let’s take advantage of that. Economic conditions are such that construction costs, labor costs and building materials are at a relatively very low level, as well, so that’s working to our advantage.

“And we have momentum. We have people in Ram Nation that have awakened for the first time in a long time that are passionately expressing support for the stadium.”

Graham hopes that support can go beyond simply building a football stadium. One of the reasons he cited for building an on-campus stadium was to unite students, alumni and the community at-large around CSU.

“This is more than a box,” Graham said. “This is a place that, hopefully, when any student at CSU walks past that building, they can go, ‘Wow! That’s where I go to school, and I’m really proud of that,’ and can tangibly identify with it. And, similarly, an athlete that shows up can look at that and say, ‘Man, I want to be part of that.’ And when people from Fort Collins have guests come in from New York City, they get them in the car and they drive around Fort Collins and show them all the sights, and they come to the stadium, and they say, ‘That’s our football stadium,” because we’re all proud of it. It’s a landmark that we’re all proud of.

“That’s the vision.”

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