Colorado State University went out and bought themselves a stadium for $220 million.
And what a stadium it is.
After months of anticipation, a group of nearly 20 media members were led around Sonny Lubick Field — well, not actually on the field — at the on-campus stadium by CSU Director of Athletics Joe Parker.
“It was a two hour tour,” though we were anything but stuck on a desert island. Some 750 men and women worked away as we passed through the hollow hallways of the on-campus stadium, interrupting their work while we snapped photos and tweeted away.
Through the back door of the massive construction project we were led, up stairways filled with workers and scaffolding, and into the Hall of Champions, which shares a ceiling with the Orthopedic Center of the Rockies field level area. Parker was happy to explain Colorado State will be the first stadium with the experience for fans so close to the action and said later in the tour it was designed after a similar area in AT&T Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys call home.
Fans will be able to watch the action from field level behind the players on the sideline as well as watch the Rams take and leave the field when they decide to use that adjacent tunnel.
Joe Parker in the OCR Field Club. Will be giant Rams logo in ceiling. Behind white tarps is field. Bobo says they will have trainers tables. pic.twitter.com/BNi2OO2FkC
— Rich Kurtzman (@RichKurtzman) March 20, 2017
When the team is simply using the stadium to prepare, the field club will be used as a training area, head football coach Mike Bobo said during the tour. Then, we wandered through the new arena’s corridors to the new locker room, equipped with 125 custom, wood lockers which each feature a USB port for every player. Bobo was pleasantly surprised to learn there will be two projectors the team will be able to use, say, during halftime to break down film of the first half quickly.
From one giant space to another and the 11,000 square foot weight room which Parker said will be the “best training space in the country” when it opens. Hard to argue with him as we climbed the stairs up to the second floor, where Bobo’s office shares a windowed wall on one side, and there’s also a player’s lounge.
Speaking of Bobo’s office, on the east side, he has his own terrace which faces the field, and windows allow him to look out onto the playing surface, as well.
From the terrace, Bobo spoke about the “first-class” nature of the new on-campus stadium:
— Rich Kurtzman (@RichKurtzman) March 20, 2017
Bobo’s right. No offense to Hughes Stadium, which performed its purpose for 49 years, but that stadium wasn’t even second class, it was third class. So were CSU’s jerseys when they used Russell Athletic, but a recent improvement to Under Armour is a microcosm of the changing of the tides at Colorado State.
A stadium made for function rather than form, Hughes was never a thing of beauty. This on-campus stadium, is. Hughes was simply a place for football games. This stadium will be a place for parties, for enjoying company at the field club or the New Belgium Porch. This on-campus stadium will be a place for fans to actually enjoy the game, with all the amenities of home but a view of the foothills that’s too good to be true.
With the new weight room, training facilities which include four pools, the new locker room and a new, two-and-a-half football field practice facility going in next door, Colorado State will be able to do everything from their first-class facility.
On we went, up and into expansive concourse which is reminiscent of Coors Field. It was designed that way, with views of the field from the entire concourse, Parker said, which can hold 5,000 people and help everyone connect to the action on the gridiron. Up to the 700 level, in the southwest corner of the stadium where the media will be tucked away. And while it may be far from the action when it takes place on the other end of the field, the views from there are still stunning.
On the west side, the views of the foothills, the “A” and the practice fields were stupendous. It’s also where Parker clarified once again, the stadium is “on time and on budget” saying they will get the keys to their new football home on June 9.
“For me, when I’ll be able to understand the experience we’ve created is when we actually using the building,” Parker said. “It’s hard now to really get that full feeling of what it will be like on game day.”
Bobo said he expects the “atmosphere to be electric” when the stadium opens this Aug. 26 against Pac-12 foe the Oregon State Beavers.
And as time hurtles in that direction, with a mere five months and change until the 2017 CSU season kickoff, the school still doesn’t have a sponsor for which the stadium will be named after.
According to Parker CSU is “taking our time to find the right partner,” when it comes to naming rights. For now, even with the stadium still being three months from completion, it’s still looking first-class all the way around.