Letter to Fort Collins City Council on Formation of Stadium Advisory Committee, January 11, 2012
Fort Collins City Council:
Darin and I were chatting the other day about a variety of issues, and I thought it might be useful for you to have an update on stadium issues at CSU given some of the information that’s recently been in the press.
- Jack Graham, our new Athletic Director, is fully committed to trying to raise the funds for an on-campus football stadium. I think this would have some very real benefits for CSU in terms of connecting alumni and potential students with the new buildings and facilities on our campus, helping turn the football program around, and providing important economic development benefits to Fort Collins. Jack has established a very aggressive personal timeline for raising the funds, constructing and opening such a stadium. I support him in pushing the project forward, and without his passion and vision, I doubt there’s a chance to be successful with such a project.
- Still, a project of this scope inevitably generates concern and some level of controversy, and it’s not in the culture of a university to pursue such a project without careful consideration and input. We have worked carefully to define a process for moving forward. The process involves the establishment of a 15-person Stadium Advisory Committee co-chaired by Jack and Vice President for University Operations Amy Parsons (who is responsible for all our facility projects). The committee includes student, faculty and community representation. I’ll return to the point of City involvement with this committee below.
- We are at the very beginning stages of a process that will include discussion of how such a stadium could be funded (naming rights and donor funding are the anticipated foundational elements), where it might be located (we have committed to maintaining green space and views, being sensitive to parking issues, and working with the City and local neighbors), and what additional elements (if any) would be co-located (for example, our Alumni Association has long desired an Alumni Center, and some universities have built dorm space into stadium structures that ended up being in very high demand).
- Throughout the process, and on all the issues noted above, we are building in significant opportunity for public comment and involvement. In addition, a project of this nature has to be integrated into our campus Master Plan and subsequently our Physical Development Plan. Along with this comes filing with the State and the associated approvals by the Board of Governors. All naming rights, donations leading to naming, utilization of additional revenue streams for jointly located university functions, and the potential utilization of revenue from any sale of the Hughes Stadium site would all require Board approval. In short, if such a project moves forward and becomes a reality, it will and can only do so with numerous approvals. We have not reached the stage for any of that.
- That’s where we stand at present, but it may also be useful to debunk a couple of persistent and inaccurate stories that float about.
- There is no discussion of whether or not we should have such a stadium. It seems to me that inherent in a discussion about whether we can fund a stadium and the pros and cons of where we might locate it is the assumption that this might not proceed. We are committed to pursuing the feasibility of the project and we’ll give it 100% of our effort to give it the best chance for success, but without meeting the parameters outlined above, the project will not advance. A side note to this is the question of why we would discuss locations and funding in advance of a clear “yes” message on the stadium. I think that the problems with such a completely linear decision making approach are obvious: we can’t discuss conceptual design accurately without knowing something of location, we can’t assess fund raising very effectively without some level of conceptual design, and I’m not sure how we could really have any sort of informed discussion without some level of information on what we’re discussing. Inherent in that thinking is the basis for us to simultaneously pursue a “can we/should we” strategic discussion with a “how/when” operational discussion.
- The site has already been selected. A map was published in the local paper showing potential sites. I’m not clear on where much of this site information came from since there is considerable inaccuracy regarding the most likely sites we are considering. To be clear, no site has been selected. In fact, the planning committee hasn’t even had its first meeting yet. No site will be selected without the planning processes described above. Speculating on sites would pull the activity out of the committee’s hands, which I am not willing to do.
- We already have donors for the project. This is incorrect as well. We are working with Development and Athletics to build a reasonable donor plan and to pursue funding. There have been a few small gifts and we’re segregating these in a Foundation account.
- Since there is no identified donor funding, we must be planning on using state funds, requesting a local tax, or assessing a student fee. We will not use state appropriated funds or tuition revenue on a stadium. I cannot imagine taking any type of tax request forward given the fiscal climate, and I don’t see that climate changing during the time we’ll be pursuing the project. I have not been supportive of increasing student athletic fees and such a recommendation would concern me and need to be given careful thought and analysis.
- We have already met with construction companies about the project. This is not true. We have been approached by a few large architectural and planning firms that have ideas and an interest in being involved in the project if it moves forward, but any contractor selection would go through the open bid process required by state law and university policy.
- Finally, let me return to the City’s involvement with the Stadium Planning Committee. My intention was to engage the City at the earliest possible opportunity in our discussions around this project, and it was to that end that I invited Darin to name a representative to the committee. If this action raises concern that such involvement implies the City’s elected government is supportive of the committee’s recommendations to me, I am very open to other approaches to assure we have the communication and coordination we’d all like but without compromising any of your positions. One possibility might be to term the City’s representative a “City liaison” to the university’s Stadium Planning Committee without any vote. I’m open to your collective thoughts on how best to proceed around this issue, but I do feel strongly that the City deserves a voice at the table as this issue is explored.
At the end of the day, I think the interest surrounding this topic — driving internet speculation and media coverage well ahead of the actual process — captures the paradox of college sports: a level of impact from a non-core mission area that disproportionately reflects on the university, for good or ill. The challenge before all of us at large public universities is to determine how to harness the best of such potential while avoiding the pitfalls of a — win at all cost — mentality. I can assure you that our actions will respect the culture of our community and will be rooted in open discussion and debate, as well as a clear respect for the processes appropriate to a project of this scope.
As always, let me know if you have any questions that I can try to answer for you.
Anthony A. Frank, President
Colorado State University