Colorado plans facilities upgrades

You know how coaches say big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games? Truth is, that's how a player becomes big time in the first place. Thereafter an expectations of excellence settles in.

Well the same goes for football programs. Big-time programs raise big-time money to build big-time facilities, thereafter fairly establishing an expectation of excellence.

Colorado announced Wednesday that it wants to be big time. Now it's up to its fans to ante up.

The school's Board of Regents voted 9-0 while green lighting the athletic department to proceed with a comprehensive facilities re-design and upgrade that will cost $143 million.

The plan -- "the sustainable excellence initiative" -- will, according to a release from the school:

  • 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.

The plan is to break ground in the spring. But a lot depends on raising money. Athletic director Rick George said in the release that the school hopes to have raised one-third of the money raised when shovels hit the dirt.

Said George, "It could be corporately, it could be an annual revenue that we generate, it could be private donors."

From the release:

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.

If you tour the Pac-12, Colorado's facilities fall into the bottom third of the conference. And if you exclude a most excellent Folsom Field, the supporting facilities probably rank last.

Noted coach Mike MacIntyre: "There's a ceiling we'll hit in recruiting if this is not done. It's always either the first or second question I get in recruiting."

Just about every Pac-12 program has reinvested money in major facilities upgrades over the past five years. Colorado fans are going to need to open their wallets and checkbooks if they want their Buffaloes to keep up.