Hughes could be worth much torn down

CSU President Tony Frank and the university’s Board of Governors have so far given only conditional approval to the idea of an on-campus stadium. There’s a lot of money and a long couple of years to go before we’ll know whether the stadium’s truly a go. Yet none of that has stopped talk about what to do with Hughes Stadium — in the event that the new stadium is constructed.

First things first, the fundraising campaign has two years to raise $125 million, which, regardless of your opinion of the new stadium, seems like a reachable goal. After all, the university’s Campaign for Colorado State University raised $500 million in less than five years.

No doubt, there are some who may have donated in the past who won’t donate to the stadium based on principle, or perhaps because they just made a donation a year or two ago. But, still, it seems likely that the funding goal will be reached.

Consider how quickly CSU got moving on the fundraising campaign: It took less than an hour after the Board of Governors’ approval of Frank’s recommendation for this alumna to receive an email, with the subject line, “It’s Go Time!” requesting a donation. I can only assume that my fellow alumni received similar missives.

So, supposing that the $246 million stadium moves forward, what will be done with Hughes?

Some ideas have been tossed about, like using the facility for high school football or as a concert venue. I wrote about many of these earlier this year. Each of these ideas has its pros and cons, and a lengthy study will no doubt be conducted to determine the best use of the 30,000-seat stadium.

One possibility that I didn’t address in my earlier piece is to tear the stadium down.

Redeveloping the land on which Hughes sits could, in fact, provide the greatest benefits to the community.

Admittedly, the cost of tearing down the decades-old structure “would be horrendous,” in the words of Michael Ehler, a broker at Realtec Commercial. But even if Hughes is left to stand, it will require the investment of millions of dollars for years to come.

How much?

Well, according to the pile of documents on my desk on the subject of Hughes vs. a new stadium, Hughes would require as much as $30 million in maintenance over the next 10 years.

Bottom line: Money is going to be spent on Hughes, one way or another.

So, if the Rams do get a new home in the coming years, perhaps the better way to go about spending that $30 million is to provide the community with a much-needed resource – multi-family housing.

In the event that Hughes is torn down, the land on which it sits could potentially be used for mixed-use development, weighted toward residential use, according to Ehler.

Such a project could be a private one, possibly completed by a developer in our region, meaning construction jobs for Northern Colorado, and money that CSU wouldn’t have to spend.

Although the acreage is large enough for a business park, it sits too far from Interstate 25 for such a use, Ehler said.

The land right now could be worth as much as $20,000 per acre, Ehler said, but in three to five years, “land will hopefully be more valuable.”

The market for land remains depressed in Northern Colorado, fetching $20,000 for an acre on the high end of the spectrum, Ehler said. In three to five years, when all of this becomes a reality, the numbers could get much higher.

“That land could end up being double or triple that price if the economy returns to a pre-recession level,” Ehler said.

Also in three to five years, Fort Collins will likely be experiencing even more of a housing shortage than it is right now.

In the second quarter, the multi-family vacancy rate in Fort Collins was 3.5 percent, down from 6.4 percent in the same quarter in 2011.

In the northwest part of Fort Collins, the closest sector to Hughes that is monitored by the Colorado Division of Housing, the vacancy rate is 0.6 percent.

While this number may not capture everything — it does not take into account single-family homes for rent or the home-buying market — it does give a picture of how difficult it is to find an apartment around these parts.

Not surprisingly, the northwest section of Fort Collins is also the most student-heavy, and also the most likely to be impacted by CSU’s plans to grow enrollment substantially in the next decade.

CSU wants to increase enrollment to 35,000 over the next 10 years, up from current enrollment of about 28,000. Even when you account for on-campus student housing projects yet to be built, the university still falls far short of having enough space for all of those students.

Students can, of course, live elsewhere in the city, but that’s complicated by the city’s “3-unrelated” rule, which requires that no more than three unrelated people live together under one roof. There are a few exceptions, but not enough to keep up with the increase in demand.

Outside of the student population, demographers have projected great leaps in population for the Northern Colorado region as a whole over the next couple of decades, which will inevitably cause even more of a housing crunch as time marches on.

Bottom line: Tearing down Hughes to make room for residential projects wouldn’t solve the problem entirely, but it would ease some of the ever-increasing pressure on the Fort Collins housing market.

Molly Armbrister covers real estate for the Business Report. She can be reached at 970- 232-3139, at or at

Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, or

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