The building that houses the University of Colorado’s basketball and volleyball teams has been known as the Coors Events Center for over two decades, but the university released a statement on Tuesday explaining that the 11,064-seat arena is now known simply as the “CU Events Center.”
The building has had the Coors named attached to it for just under 28 years. Athletic director Rick George visited with both Adolph Coors Foundation officials and family members about a keeping the Coors name with a new naming rights opportunity, but both politely declined any extension.
“The Coors family has traditionally been very good to the University of Colorado, and they understood why we asked to go in this direction,” George said. “I can’t express enough our appreciation for their support through the years, and that support will be memorialized in the CU Events Center.”
After the 1989 football season, when the Buffaloes went 11-0 and were ranked No. 1 in the nation prior to losing to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl, then-athletic director Bill Marolt spearheaded a fundraising campaign to build the Dal Ward Athletic Center. The Coors Foundation provided the most significant gift of $5 million toward the $14 million project, and in exchange the CU Events/Conference Center was renamed the Coors Events Center when the CU Board of Regents officially recognized the donation on Sept. 20, 1990.
Groundbreaking on the building began on Oct. 3, 1977, after the university received a federal grant of $360,000 to begin construction. That was awarded from the EDA (Economic Development Administration) that then-Colorado governor Dick Lamm had filed for. The state had awarded an original appropriation of $2.8 million from its coffers, with the remainder of the $7.7 million budget funded through gifts, donations, bonds and operating income. Due to some cost overruns, the original capacity of 12,800 was trimmed to 11,321 and office/storage space underneath the concourse was reduced to about a fourth of the way around the facility.
The CECC was unveiled on August 8, 1979, exactly three months before the first public event, an exhibition men’s basketball game between CU and the Russian National Team. A near capacity crowd of 9,679 saw the Russians defeat the Buffaloes, 88-73, on Nov. 8.
Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams made the move to the building after sharing Balch Fieldhouse for years with the indoor track and wrestling teams, along with a myriad of other activities, and began practicing there in October of that year.
Other CU Events Center Trivia:
- The first tickets: season tickets for men’s game ranged from $52-86, with single games between $4-6 and student tickets $3;
- The first sellout was a Women’s NCAA Tournament game, where the then-Lady Buffs hosted UNLV before 11,199 fans (the revised capacity) on March 18, 1989;
- Other top crowds: 11,363 (men’s basketball vs. Kansas, 2001); 4,111 (volleyball vs. Nebraska, 2006);
- The arena has hosted several concerts, including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Jimmy Buffett, the Kinks, Starship, R.E.M., The Cure and Jethro Tull;
- Through the years, the Denver Nuggets have played several preseason games in the building; and in 1982, seriously considered a proposal to play 10 regular season home games in the building as a separate mini-season ticket package;
- The volleyball team played its first two seasons in Balch Fieldhouse, moving to Coors in 1988;
- While there were periodic improvements made to the building, on March 25, 2010, groundbreaking for a practice facility took place that added nearly 36,000 square feet to the building;
- The arena played host to President Barack Obama on two occasions in 2012, a Republican presidential debate featuring Donald Trump and other candidates in 2015 and the Dalai Lama in 2016.