DENVER – The University of Colorado athletic department on Wednesday took its most significant step forward in two-plus decades, receiving the green light from the school’s Board of Regents to proceed with a comprehensive facilities re-design and upgrade.
The Regents voted 9-0 to approve a $143 million plan presented by Athletic Director Rick George that will:
· Add an indoor multipurpose practice facility (football field/300 meter track), whose location is to be determined. The proposed site is on Franklin Field, just east of Folsom Field’s east side. The indoor facility also would be used for tailgating on game day;
· Refurbish the Dal Ward Athletics Center, which was completed in 1991, to include an Olympic sports strength training room in the sub-basement level and new locker rooms and equipment room on the field level.
· Redesign Dal Ward’s first floor for the expansion of Olympic sports/sports medicine, a leadership development center and an end zone club with club seating and loge boxes;
· Transform the second floor of Dal Ward to increase the athletic department’s academic support system from its current 5,115 square feet to 17,200 square feet. The training table will remain on the second floor;
· Add a 21,900-square foot high-performance sports center on the northeast corner of the stadium, as well as a rooftop terrace on the northeast corner (which will generate revenue by being rentable for non-game-day events), converting the south offices at Folsom Field to retail space. The rooftop terrace is also to be used on non-game-day events.
· Also proposed for the third floor of the sports performance center are team meeting rooms. Coaches’ offices and athletic administration offices will move from their current locations at Folsom Field’s “gates” to the suite level (fourth) on Folsom’s east side.
“I’m very excited about what this will do for our program long-term,” said George, who was named CU’s athletic director on July 18 and started work on Aug. 12. “It will allow us to create a world-class, holistic student-athlete experience. It will allow us to compete for and win championships, and it will allow us to become fiscally responsible. I believe it’s a long-term sustainable model.”
He said the long-range, comprehensive plan obviously was well-received by the Regents: “Getting a 9-0 vote is very rewarding for the whole group that has worked on this.”
By the time ground is broken – hopefully this spring – on the department’s “sustainable excellence initiative,” George hopes to have one-third of the money raised. “It could be corporately, it could be an annual revenue that we generate, it could be private donors.”
Regent Steve Bosley called George’s proposal “a well-thought out business plan” that represents a large and potentially lucrative investment for the campus, city of Boulder and state. Of the possible criticism aimed at launching such a project without a large number of donations in hand, Bosley said, “That dog won’t hunt.” He said he prefers “starting with a vision and turning it into a plan.”
Close to $10 million “in actual gifts and concrete pledges” has been raised thus far, George said. “And in the last two months, we’ve canvassed all areas of the country, from our own backyard to each coast and have ‘asks’ out there in the neighborhood of $40 million more.”
While a $50 million goal initially was stated, with an early December timetable, George said that number “was never one that we had to meet by December. We are enthusiastic, focused and driven on raising the initial funds needed for the plan . . . however, it is not, and never has been, a deal-breaker to have raised the money by the first of December.”
The upgrading of CU’s facilities, said George, goes beyond potentially leveling the playing field in the Pac-12. Rather, “It’s what we should be doing for our student-athletes,” he said. “This is a significant area of need for our student-athletes. We don’t have locker room spaces, we don’t have academic spaces that our student-athletes need to be successful, to have a great experience – and we need to address that.
“We have a strength facility that’s only 10,000 square feet for 300-plus student-athletes, spirit squad, what have you. It’s a need, something we need to have for this program to be successful. Notwithstanding what other schools are doing, what they’re doing is great, but this is what we need at CU to be successful long-term.”
In attending Pac-12 Conference football games over the past several years – CU has been a Pac-12 member since 2011 – Regent Sue Sharkey said she became aware of a facilities upgrades from “seeing cranes all over the place” at football stadiums. “We need to get it done and we need to get it done now,” she said.
In addition to George’s presentation on Wednesday, the Regents heard from football coach Mike MacIntyre; men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle (via video); Kris Livingston, associate athletic director/student success; Miguel Rueda, head athletic trainer. The Regents also watch several video presentations from student-athletes in all sports speaking about their various facility needs.
MacIntyre told the board he was “excited” about the future of the university and CU football, but added, “There’s a ceiling we’ll hit in recruiting if this (the facilities upgrade) if this not done. It’s always either the first or second question I get in recruiting. He also said coaches he recruits against in the Pac-12 Conference have come into Colorado pursing in-state prospects and, because of CU’s current facilities, have questioned the school’s overall commitment to athletics. His first Buffs team finished 4-8 overall, 1-8 in the Pac-12 Conference.
Livingston told the Regents the athletic department’s academic support system’s physical resources have shrunk over the last several years from 8,400 square feet to just over 5,000 square feet. By way of comparison to another Pac-12 member, Oregon’s athletic department academic space is at 40,000 square feet. But Oregon also has nearly twice as many student-athletes as CU’s 340.
Rueda said the high performance sports center would help him and his staff better identify and treat student-athletes before minor injuries become major. The center, he added, “will allow for a program where our student-athletes will receiver world-class and holistic resources dedicated to helping them achieve.”
George said the proposal’s next phase is a presentation to architects. He hopes ground can be broken this spring, with a completion date of the 2015-16 academic-athletic year. The upgrades, he said, will put the Buffs “on par with the best out there” and will “set us up for the long-term and put an end for any Band-Aid type improvements to get us through the short-term. We’ll be set for a long time.”