When Colorado State takes on Northern Colorado Saturday afternoon, the Rams will be wearing their Aggie uniforms for the last time in Hughes Stadium.
The 35th annual Ag Day celebration is one of many “lasts” that will take place at Hughes Stadium this season. Although the Ag Day tradition will certainly carry over to the on-campus stadium in 2017 and beyond, it is still weird to think that this is the last time Hughes will be filled with a sea of orange in the stands.
Six times CSU has donned the pumpkin and alfalfa, and all six times the Rams came away victorious in front of the Hughes crowd. The orange-out games have led to some of the biggest crowds and best game day experiences in my time at CSU. The annual Ag Day has given Ram fans a chance to celebrate the unique heritage of CSU and will be one of the many traditions I’ll miss taking place at Hughes.
The on-campus stadium will be the crown jewel of a CSU football program and for numerous reasons will be a significant upgrade from Hughes. Even with renovations, Hughes is outdated, which makes sense for a stadium that opened in 1968. A perfect example is the men’s bathrooms, where many young Rams fans see trough urinals for probably the first time in their lives.
The dirt parking lots resemble a fairground in the midwest more than an entrance for a division-I football program. Inside the stadium, the video board and sound system are severely inadequate, but even with all it’s flaws, Hughes has been an excellent home of CSU football for almost half a century.
Hughes has it’s own mystique and located right next to Horsetooth Reservoir, there truly is a sense of “defending the Fort”.
Even though Hughes is old and outdated, the game day experience is one one of the best around and that is certainly what will be different in the OCS. Any given Saturday, the wide-open lots are filled with the Ram faithful for hours prior to kickoff.
Take a stroll through the masses and you are likely to encounter people playing cornhole, tossing a football or maybe even cracking a few cold ones open (legally of course).
Going to a game at Hughes is about an experience much larger than just the football game itself. Hughes on game day is really a celebration of the entire community. One day a week, for nearly the last 50 years, the Fort Collins community has had Hughes to bring everyone together in celebration of CSU football.
Legitimately, Hughes provides the best tailgating scene in the state and out of all of the Mountain West stadiums I have caught a game in, none of them have a tailgating scene even remotely close to CSU. Right up next to the hogback mountain, with the sun in the sky and fans all around, Hughes provides a great experience for Ram fans of all ages.
Hughes may not be the aesthetically pleasing work of art that the on-campus stadium is projected to be, but the simplicity and openness allows for a game day experience not possible with facilities located on the campus itself.
Like most Colorado State fans, I am excited to see the OCS come to reality and how it will effect this football program. However, I will miss the stadium that I grew up watching Bradlee Van Pelt race for touchdowns in. The stadium I attended my first collegiate game in. The stadium I first experienced from the sidelines in, both as a team employee and later as a reporter.
I will always remember roasting in the student section in early September games and freezing through late October nights. The on-campus stadium is an exciting moment in history for CSU, but this last season is a chance to honor everything that happened along the way.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.