Walking around the on-campus football stadium, it is easy to see why everyone surrounding the Colorado State football program is eager for the 2017 season to start.
After spending the better part of the century playing on the far side of town, the Rams will make their highly anticipated return to the CSU campus with the inaugural game against Oregon State on Aug. 26.
In anticipation of the return to campus, fans are encouraged to attend an open house event on Aug. 5, but members of the local media were invited to tour the new “digs” on Tuesday.
Guided by Athletic Director Joe Parker and Head Football Coach Mike Bobo, more than 20 members of the local media were able to tour the Rams’ new facilities and get a feel for what game day will look like in Fort Collins this fall.
Starting outside of the stadium, Parker, who was covered from head to toe with TV microphones, welcomed the participants and explained exactly what this project has meant to him and what it will do for the community going forward.
“For 49 years we played at Hughes Stadium,” Parker said. “So for the better part of six decades we lost the opportunity to share the university with people that are attending football games. So the project is accomplishing what we hoped it would. It is really serving as a primary engagement asset for the university.”
Parker explained that while the stadium is obviously a tremendous asset to the football program, over 100 non-football related events have already been booked in the new stadium. Ten such events have already occurred, including the Fort Collins Boys and Girls Club’s annual summer bash event.
“We are seeing it pull in people to campus and that is exactly what we wanted it to do,” Parker said.
Located on the southwest side of campus, the stadium includes a 9,100-square foot custom weight room, 11,000-square foot sports medicine center and allows the program to run its day to day operations from inside the stadium with custom offices and team meeting rooms.
“In many ways, we probably built the best stadium in America,” Parker said.
When the hoards of media members piled their way through the tunnel and out onto the field, it was almost a surreal feeling. As someone that has been on campus for the last four years as a student, and grew up watching the legendary Sonny Lubick lead players like Bradlee Van Pelt, David Anderson and Joel Dreesen to victory for years, all I could think to myself was, “is this the same football program?”
— Justin Michael (@JustinTMichael) July 18, 2017
I was well aware that the stadium would be unlike anything I had ever experienced. Still, it surpassed all of my expectations.
From a scoreboard that is the size of a basketball court to the state of the art technology throughout the facility and synthetic playing surface that still feels natural and tough, everything about this stadium is first class and unique to CSU.
As I gazed over the freshly painted green seats and New Belgium Porch, which is still being constructed, I thought about sellout crowds chanting that they are “proud to be”. I thought about the possibility of a Rocky Mountain Showdown being played in Fort Collins every other year. Most of all, I thought about what this means for college football in the state of Colorado.
For years, the University of Colorado has been the only football program in the Centennial State to be consistently relevant on a national scale. While CSU and Air Force have had their moments in the sun, primarily at the beginning of the century, the rave has always been about the Buffaloes and Folsom Field.
Do not get me wrong. Only a fool would argue that Folsom is not one of the top venues in all of college football. Located right next to the Flatirons, when that place is packed and rockin’, there is no denying the unique atmosphere that Boulder can provide.
Finally though, loyal supporters of the green and gold have something to feel proud about as well.
As long as CSU is on the outside looking in of a Power Five conference, the Rams will always lack the funding of their rival to to the south. However, having a shiny new facility to brag about, recently redesigned uniforms and a postseason streak of four years certainly helps close the gap.
The harsh reality is that being a member of the Mountain West is an uphill battle for local relevancy, let alone getting attention on a national scale. However, when it comes to programs outside of the Power Five that are on the college football map, Colorado State University certainly belongs in that conversation right now.
This stadium has raised the standard in every way imaginable. No longer will coasting through the Mountain West be an acceptable outcome for this program. With a new home, comes the pressure to succeed.
“We want to be in a place that has high expectations,” Bobo said. “We don’t want to be in a place that has minimal pressure or minimal expectations. It’s a big responsibility moving into this stadium and this facility. We’ve got to earn the right to come out here and play and represent Colorado State.”
Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.