Colorado State University's new stadium.
When the Colorado State University Rams open the football season Saturday, Aug. 26, they will not only debut a new season, but christen a brand-new on-campus stadium.
Colorado State Stadium, Fort Collins, brings football back to campus, remakes the southern entrance to campus and opens up a variety of entertainment and academic opportunities at the multipurpose venue.
The $220-million stadium was designed by Populous as an open-air entertainment, academic and training destination. It seats 41,000 for football (10,000 are set aside for students) and other events, but also features a porch on the north side for events and includes an 80,000-square-foot alumni and academic center integrated into the east side of the venue. Plus, the entire football operations program has moved into the new stadium, from a training center, to meeting rooms and sports medicine to offices.
Myron Chase, Populous project manager on the stadium, said that from a design perspective, that even with a football-sized seating bowl, the new stadium falls in line with the mid-century modern architecture style of horizontal and vertical planes seen across campus buildings while mixing in plenty of Colorado sandstone, the primary material found on campus.
“Mid-century modern presents some challenges,” he said. “You have to contend with the seating bowl and not necessarily hide that, but mask it with a façade we wouldn’t typically do. It was a challenge, but I think we were successful carrying that style of architecture into the stadium.”
Chase used sandstone at key locations, especially entrances, most predominately a 110-foot-tall sandstone wall at the premium entrance that he says unifies the west façade.
Connecting to the existing campus was important, but simply bringing folks onto campus offers an opportunity to reshape the southern edge of campus that wasn’t available previously. Populous designed the venue on 17.5 acres with an axis on Meridian Avenue to connect toward the recreation fields and the interior of campus. The positioning also allows for views to the mountains.
“Playing football on campus provides the largest engagement opportunity for the university six times each year,” said Joe Parker, director of athletics. “Alumni who come to football games will be back on campus, walking in the same places they walked as students and showing their families this beautiful campus. Something that is very exciting is to see people experience the stadium for the first time in person and to see that something very special has been built here. The engagement is beneficial for the entire university, and it’s a campus- and community-wide point of pride and celebration.”
Inside, the premium spaces—a typical mix of 23 open-air suites, three clubs and 224 loge boxes—includes the premium tower in the west with views onto the mountains. The field club, since renamed the Orthopaedic & Spine Center of the Rockies Field Club, was university-requested and places a club on the field. The patio-like setting gives fans access to view the game from the field and watch the entrance and exit of the team.
With 270-degree views from the concourse, Chase said they tried to keep fans connected to the energy of the game at all points while upgrading everything from point-of-sale to restrooms and retail space to concessions versus what fans were accustomed to at the now-closed 50-year-old Hughes Stadium, off campus four miles away.
While the student advising and counseling and academic areas—a total of about 60,000 square feet—located under the east concourse don’t have a direct tie to the stadium, the 23,000-sq.-ft. alumni center does, ideally allowing the university the opportunity for pre-event programming and giving alumni a dedicated entrance into the venue on game days. It can also host events when football isn’t in town.
By moving the entire football program into the stadium, Chase said they found there wasn’t a simple way to get natural light into the coaching offices, so they made a way by creating a coach’s patio in the northwest corner. The cutout in the bowl gives the head coach views to the field and offers coaching personnel access to the patio. While not an in-game ticket, it provides a quirk to the design.
One area that has already garnered plenty of attention is the New Belgium Porch, which wasn’t added into the build until nine months ago. Located on the north end, football game ticketholders can purchase an add-on to gain entrance to the two bars in the standing-room-only space. Plus, the plaza can open to the campus and community on nongame days, a “unique feature that provides fans a different game-day experience” that can be used on a year-round basis, Parker said.
The university has employed a stadium events manager since September 2016 who has already scheduled 100 events through the end of the calendar year, including a wedding on site July 3 and three uses of the plaza in the first two weeks since opening prior to this weekend’s football game.
None of those events will prove more important than the Aug. 26 football game in Colorado State Stadium, an event that gives special meaning to a “home” game and something Colorado State University hasn’t ever experienced.