CSU wants stadium pact with Fort Collins on hold

FORT COLLINS — A joint agreement charting the course of how the city of Fort Collins and Colorado State University might share costs of an on-campus stadium will have to wait on private fundraising efforts that CSU will unveil later this year.

Two years after CSU announced efforts to raise private money to build the stadium, fundraising totals do not look promising. Officials acknowledged in July that the university has raised just $24.2 million as of June 30 for the stadium, less than a quarter of the amount that CSU President Tony Frank has sought to raise by this October.

Construction of the stadium, estimated by CSU to cost $226.5 million, will move forward if half the cost can be raised by October. If CSU meets that target, Frank expects to take a financing plan to the CSU Board of Governors for its approval in December. CSU has selected Denver-based Mortenson Construction as lead contractor to build the stadium, which CSU aims to complete by fall 2016.

“Executing an IGA (intergovernmental agreement) related to the stadium prior to knowing if we’ll meet our financial parameters for moving ahead seems premature to me,” Frank said in an email to City Manager Darin Atteberry in June.

However, Frank expressed an interest in developing the agreement when he finds enough private funding for the stadium to replace the aging Hughes Stadium. Opened in 1968, the stadium is located west of campus off South Overland Trail.

“Failing to have an IGA in place as we would move into the market for financing seems like it would add to concerns over whether or not we intend to live up to our commitment to be good neighbors while pursuing the course of action we see as best for the long-term future of the university,” Frank said.

Earlier this year, Fort Collins City Councilman Wade Troxell proposed that the city form by July 1 an intergovernmental agreement between the city and CSU to share costs of an on-campus stadium, including items such as lighting, parking, road and public transportation. Troxell estimates those costs at an additional “$30 million to $50 million” on top of CSU’s figure.

“There hasn’t been any acknowledgement of the kinds of impacts and costs that will be borne by the city in the event of the building of the stadium,” Troxell said. “That needs to be addressed in a forthright way.”

Troxell visited the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis to learn more about the university’s on-campus stadium. The university formed groups to deal with legal aspects and effects on nearby neighborhoods impacted by the stadium. An endowment also was set up to fund neighborhood improvements.

In Fort Collins, he said, “there’s no discussion with respect to that. It’s all looking at the stadium and not really the impacts related to the stadium in the neighborhoods and transportation systems.”

CSU has raised far more money for academics than for a new stadium in the past two years.

In the past two record fundraising years, CSU raised $6.5 million during fiscal 2013 and $17.7 million during fiscal 2014, CSU spokesman Mike Hooker said. In fiscal 2013, the university raised a record $112.5 million, only to outdo itself by raising $143.3 million in private money during fiscal 2014.

The dearth of funding underscores the challenges facing the on-campus stadium, said Bob Vangermeersch, founder of Save Our Stadium Hughes, a group opposed to a new stadium.

“I don’t think they can get the funding they need,” he said.

Hooker declined to comment on whether the university thought it could shore up the fundraising gap in the next two months.

Officials have discussed forming a group of CSU and city officials to tackle issues such as the stadium, but so far have not organized the group. They also have not begun forming the intergovernmental agreement.

“We’re really not at a point where we have enough of an understanding to negotiate an intergovernmental agreement,” Atteberry said. “There is a day when that will come for certain, if CSU proceeds forward with the stadium construction.”

Atteberry, however, is forming a draft proposal of what the committee might look like for council consideration.

The city has hired a part-time contract employee, former deputy city manager Diane Jones, as senior policy and project manager to exclusively focus on stadium matters.

“At this point, what we’ve been trying to do is understand the impacts and analyze those impacts and then begin to talk about what mitigation needs to be in place,” Atteberry said. “It’s really a matter of timing.”

Jones said work done by a 15-member Stadium Advisory Committee – including city council members – to review economic studies on the stadium may form the basis of a future joint agreement.

“We’re not really at the point yet of talking specifics,” she said, “because they’re trying to identify what are those factors.”

Steve Lynn can be reached at 970-232-3147, 303-630-1968 or slynn@bizwestmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveLynnBW.

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