Putting Hughes Stadium to good use

Every day, new questions seem to arise surrounding the potential construction of an on-campus stadium for the Colorado State University Rams. One big question: What will happen to Hughes Stadium?

Hughes, situated more than two miles from the main CSU campus on the far west edge of Fort Collins, seats 30,000 and has been home to the Rams since 1968.

In 1970, structural issues were discovered that affected the south concourse, creating large cracks in the concrete that are still visible today. In spite of those problems, Hughes remains a viable venue that has the potential to serve a variety of purposes. The Business Report dug into the question of what might be next for the stadium. Here are four potential new uses:

High school sports
Poudre School District is home to four high schools: Fort Collins, Poudre, Fossil Ridge and Rocky Mountain.

Each of these four is home to more than football teams when it comes to outdoor sports. Lacrosse, field hockey and soccer are just a few examples of outdoor sports that could be played on the turf at Hughes. Each of these schools currently plays on its own field, but Hughes would provide ample seating and locker room space for both home and visiting teams.

It may seem like overkill to some, but a high school team playing in a full-blown stadium would provide the team with the ultimate home-field advantage. Fort Collins could play host to playoffs and state championship games, bringing thousands of players and parents from other parts of the state to spend money on hotels, dining and more.

One drawback: deciding who would have access to the stadium and at what times. High school football, for example, is typically played on Friday nights. With four high schools in town, who would get the chance to play in the stadium?

Summer events
Fort Collins is full of events in the summer, including Taste of Fort Collins and BrewFest. Currently, both of those events are held in Civic Center Park, and they spill over into surrounding streets, snarling traffic for a couple of days.

The location of BrewFest has been especially controversial in recent years, after the decision was made to relocate the 2010 festival to Civic Center Park from its former location in Old Town Square. Some business owners in the square felt that the two-day celebration of Fort Collins’ favorite libation was bad for business, so it was located in an area that is business-free.

Relocating summertime festivals, which range in size and scope throughout the summer months, may be a good use for Hughes.  However, its distance from the rest of town would be both a strength and a weakness. Because the stadium sits removed from the rest of Fort Collins, the likelihood that businesses and residents would be bothered by the presence of such festivals is much lower than with any in-town location.

However, because alcohol is served at many of the summer festivities, some may balk at the increased chance for drunken driving. Organizers of summer festivals have taken steps to minimize this issue. BrewFest, for example, offers free admission to those who agree to serve as a designated driver.

Farmers’ markets
As the demand for local products grows in Fort Collins, so will the demand for farmers’ markets. There are currently four farmers’ markets that operate in different parts of town all year long.
The markets are well-attended, as evidenced by BeLocal, a winter market held in the Opera Galleria in downtown Fort Collins, which sees between 1,500 and 2,500 shoppers and between 50 and 60 vendors every weekend.

While all four markets do well and serve their customers on their own, they are each managed by a different group, making it difficult for customers to find easy information about all of the markets, which all run on different schedules and offer different products.

Moving all of Fort Collins’ farmers’ markets into one place, such as Hughes Stadium, would create synergy among the groups that organize the markets and create the benefits of a “one-stop-shop” for customers while still providing the best in local products.

Staging concerts at Hughes Stadium is not a new idea. In the first 20 years of Hughes’ existence, it hosted legends like The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and Bob Dylan. In the 1980s, it became clear that the added income from using the stadium for concerts was not worth the increasing noise complaints from neighbors and the noticeable wear on the field.

One of these two problems would be easily remedied in the event of the Rams getting a new home. If no one is playing football on the turf, its condition matters much less, meaning that it is much more justifiable to allow rock gods access to the field.

The noise issue, as always, will remain a problem, with residents’ insistence on their peace and quiet working against rock acts’ insatiable need to be loud. This may have something to do with Fort Collins’ shortage of outdoor event venues, which are limited to parks and small gardens.

Fort Collins’ indoor event venues, such as the Lincoln Center and the Midtown Arts Center, are not to be brushed aside, as both are newly remodeled and are capable of playing host to a wide variety of acts, but Hughes offers something a little different. The stadium seats 30,000, far more than the maximum 1,180 that can fit in the Lincoln Center’s largest performance hall.

Beyond that, Hughes’ concrete floors and ceilings are far more conducive than the sophisticated surroundings of our local indoor venues to teeming masses of college students excited to watch their favorite artist perform.

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