Pope: Only one real answer in on-campus stadium debate

Keegan Pope

Keegan Pope
Keegan Pope

If you read Colorado State president Tony Frank’s e-mail addressing the University’s on-campus stadium debate on Thursday, you are probably still trying to decipher through exactly what he said.

Here’s the bottom line, though: An on-campus stadium will be built at CSU as long as Frank is the president of this university.

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In his self-proclaimed “tome,” Frank states that while they have been unable to raise the necessary $110 million to begin construction on the stadium as it is currently proposed, he and the University’s Board of Governors will explore other options in regards the issue. Those include:

  • Scrapping the on-campus stadium project and instead spending around $30 million to do routine maintenance of Hughes Stadium.
  • Next is what Frank calls “Hughes Stadium 2050.” That plan includes major renovations to the stadium to generate new revenue that could then begin paying off the maintenance costs needed for the general upkeep of the facility.
  • The third option is to phase the current planned on-campus stadium in its proposed location by the removal of items deemed unnecessary in the immediate future to reduce the cost. Those features could be added in when the funds come about.
  • The fourth and final option concludes that CSU would close the current project and rebid a new one as public-private entity. Within that, Colorado State would team with a private company to build the stadium, which the University would pay for in installments over multiple decades.

But reading between the lines, really only three of the options are even remotely realistic. However, just one is an actual possibility.

The first, completely abandoning the on-campus stadium, simply isn’t feasible due to the fact that the $30 million would come from the school’s general fund, a resource Frank stated he would be very uncomfortable tapping for either project. Made up of student tuition and funds appropriated for the University, it would be even tougher to sell to students and faculty that their money would be spent on a facility that doesn’t help to raise the profile of the school at all.

While in the realm of possibility, but still extremely unlikely is the “Hughes 2050” plan. Incurring debt to do major renovations to then pay off the necessary maintenance repairs simply isn’t a smart business plan. There is no guarantee that new seats and luxury boxes would generate the kind of capital needed to pay off the $30 million in maintenance repairs, and if it can’t CSU will be stuck with not only the debt of the repairs but also of the additional renovations.

While slightly outlandish, the idea of closing the current project and starting a new one is still a possibility. However, it is a bit presumptuous that very many private entities would be content with being repaid over multiple decades for a project they would need to invest a large amount of capital in immediately. Say Company X invests $100 million dollars toward the project and expects a return on its investment over 30 years. Colorado State would need to generate at least $3.3 million per year simply to pay back the principle of the loan, let alone the interest that would be included. Given that the athletic department runs at a profit of just $368,025 according to the U.S. Department of Education, seeing a jump like that would be unlikely.

The likely solution lies in reducing the cost of construction in the immediate future and being able to add features and renovations as money becomes available. Although it won’t be the state-of-the-art facility seen in the preliminary sketches, a new stadium will be a major upgrade from the dump that is Hughes Stadium. Reducing the cost to the neighborhood of $150-175 million cuts the initial donation necessary to around $75 million. With $50 million already in hand, Frank could finance the other $25 million through stadium sponsorship rights or extending the donation period.

Also playing into the situation is the fact that Frank, along with former athletic director Jack Graham, put his name and reputation behind this project. He simply doesn’t want to see all the money spent and resources used be for naught.

It may not be built this year, or even next, but you can bet on the fact that an on-campus stadium will be built at Colorado State in the near future.

The Pope has spoken.

Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.

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