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Enjoying the new stadium should not be reason to forget Hughes Stadium, and the debate for what should be done with the 160 Acre lot it occupies has finally begun. The three most popular notions at this time seem to be using the land for housing, as a new music venue, or as an open space for outdoor recreation. While each of these ideas has its merits, it is important to consider the long-term implications of each option and make a decision that is in line with Fort Collins values and future.
A new music venue could be a great new option for local events, and it could potentially make Fort Collins an even bigger hub for live music. It is worth noting, however, that the new stadium has already been doubling as a concert venue. Whether or not it makes sense to have two large music venues within five miles of each other also gives rise to another debate all its own. Beyond that there are more widely beneficial uses available to the land.
Not much of the area surrounding Hughes Stadium has been developed, in fact a few of the 40,000-plus acres of Fort Collins natural areas are already right next door to the now unused lot. Most notably, just over the ridge emblazoned with the famous Aggie ‘A,’ is Horsetooth Reservoir and Natural Area. That green space that is arguably the crown jewel of Fort Collins’ natural areas and a major piece of the recreation lifestyle that so many of us here enjoy. It is even advertised as a primary reason to relocate to or visit our town. To develop that land into anything that might encroach on the intrinsic value of this particular natural area would be foolhardy.
While affordable housing is an issue in Fort Collins, the old stadium grounds are not the place to go about fixing it. As the city keeps growing in population, cost of rent has not only increased, but the availability of rentals has decreased. This is an issue that affects many people in Fort Collins, including Colorado State University students and employees.
This may truly seem like a golden opportunity: build affordable and subsidized housing on the grounds and rent it cheap to the university employees in order to minimize their financial burden. After all, some of our schools employees make as little as ten dollars an hour. This approach is a band-aid on the larger issues at play there; the long term solutions to housing problems are more likely to be found by removing problematic and discriminatory housing statutes like ‘U plus 2.’ CSU could also make some truly progressive moves and use our latest tuition increase to pay each of its employees a more substantial and livable wage.
The third option is to convert the land into a green space for public use. This option has the most clear-cut benefits. Natural areas are an important part of Fort Collins, as the city continues to grow we need to take every opportunity to install more of them and match their growth with that of the city. The idea may not do much to earn extra income for the university, like selling the land to a developer would, but it would be a quality investment in the community. Much of the area is already used regularly for recreational purposes and with very little work could be drastically improved for expanded use.
The point is, with all of the options presented for using the land, which the university has no need for, a decision should be made that can benefit the entire community for years and increase the natural capital that this city so proudly shows off. Housing issues can be solved without sacrificing the beauty and sanctuary provided by the natural spaces occupying the foothills.
If you would like your voice heard in this matter, CSU will hold a community wide open house regarding the stadium on October 18 from 6-8 p.m. at the Drake Centre, 802 W. Drake Road.
Columnist Tyler Weston can be reached at email@example.com