Earlier this year, Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn said he would make an announcement in September about "a transformational" facilities project in and around Folsom Field.
Earlier this week at a Board of Regents meeting in Colorado Springs, CU chancellor Phil DiStefano briefed the regents on the possible project and showed them renderings of concepts that, depending on funding, may or may not be included. DiStefano did not provide estimates of how much the project or individual elements of it would cost, said Regent Michael Carrigan, D-Denver.
In a recent interview with the Camera, DiStefano said he believes there is a need for facilities upgrades at Folsom Field, but he is uncertain when any announcement about those upgrades might come and what the project will entail.
"We're in the very preliminary stages of taking a look at Folsom and trying to make some sort of decision in the fall about whether or not we should try to move forward on some type of a renovation, but I'm not sure what that would be," DiStefano said.
Bohn is in New York this weekend meeting with alumni and donors and was not available for comment.
CU is conducting a feasibility study this summer for the project. Bohn acknowledged in the spring that the fundamental elements will include a permanent indoor practice facility and an underground parking garage. That building would be attached to the Dal Ward Center and Folsom Field on the northeast corner of the stadium, adding a significant amount of space that could be used for classrooms and offices in addition to an expanded weight room.
Bohn also would like to bring athletic department staffers -- except for those dedicated to men's and women's basketball and volleyball -- under one roof in the expanded Dal Ward Center. Currently, the athletic department uses office space in Balch Fieldhouse and at most gates to Folsom Field.
In addition to the practice facility, parking garage and expanding the Dal Ward Center, Bohn's plan would enclose the north end of the stadium, adding several thousand seats and making it possible for fans to walk around the entire stadium on one concourse.
The renderings DiStefano showed the regents this week showed all of those details as well as a refurbished west side of the stadium, including new suites or upgrades to the Flatirons Club, a new press box and a new shelf of seating built into Balch Fieldhouse.
Those details are considered secondary to the practice facility, parking garage and Dal Ward upgrades and might not be included if the funding can't be raised. If all aspects of the project were included, the capacity of the stadium would rise to around 60,000 from 53,613 now.
"We have to look at the results of the feasibility study and see where donors line up," DiStefano said in the interview with the Camera. "Who knows? We may have something more to talk about in September. I think I'm just being a little bit more conservative than Mike in saying it will probably take us some time during the fall to make that decision."
CU football coaches have been sharing the major details of the plan with football recruits making unofficial visits to campus this spring and summer.
Bohn and DiStefano have acknowledged that CU would partially fund the project by borrowing against future Pac-12 television revenue. CU will begin receiving more than $20 million annually from the conference in the coming school year. The department could put $125 to $150 million toward the project by borrowing $5 million a year over 25 or 30 years.
During the spring, DiStefano, Bohn and handful of other CU staffers visited the University of Washington to study how that institution is handling a major renovation project at Husky Stadium. DiStefano said what Washington is doing is fundamentally different from the ideas being floated at CU because Washington is adding suites and club seats, which will provide revenue to pay for the project over time.
CU already has suites and club seats from its last major upgrade at Folsom Field completed in 2003.
DiStefano said unequivocally that any facilities upgrades in athletics will have to be paid for by private funding, increased ticket sales and money the athletic department receives from the Pac-12 television contracts. He said his office will not contribute to athletics facilities projects.
DiStefano said the CU campus and CU System office headed by president Bruce Benson each gave the athletic department $3 million to help offset the $16 million expense of switching from the Big 12 Conference to the Pac 12 last year. In addition, the campus and the system loaned the athletic department the other $10 million, which will be paid back by 2019.
"We've been helping athletics all along, but for something as significant as a stadium renovation, we do have to look at those other three sources of funding," DiStefano said.
DiStefano has been at CU as a professor or administrator for 38 years. During much of that time he has worked closely with the athletic department, including serving as faculty athletics representative (2000-2005), and he knows well the challenges the department faces.
CU isn't alone in wanting to make improvements to its football stadium. Arizona is spending $72 million on football complex beyond the north end zone of its stadium. Cal is spending nearly half a billion on renovating its football stadium and adding a complex that will bring most of its athletic department under one roof. Washington is reportedly spending $250 million on its stadium project and Washington State is spending $80 million on a football complex, football suites and a new press box.
USC recently built the John McKay Center, a football operations center, for $70 million.
Up the road in Fort Collins, new athletic director Jack Graham is proposing a privately funded, on-campus, 40,000-seat stadium at a cost of $250 million, begging the question: If CSU can find the money for a new stadium, why can't CU find enough to refurbish the home of Ralphie's famous Saturday afternoon stampedes?
DiStefano said the prospect of CSU adding a stadium -- a decision will come later this year -- doesn't put pressure on Colorado to do more.
"I don't think what CSU is planning is having an effect on us," DiStefano said. "As I said, we're certainly in the very preliminary stages of taking a look at Folsom Field, and we'll spend this summer kind of talking about possible facility upgrades. We're certainly looking at what our Pac-12 colleagues are doing."