Facility Profile - November 2003
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Football Field with a View

Folsom Field
University of Colorado at Boulder

By Jenny E. Beeh

Stadiums, by nature, are supposed to be designed to give spectators the best view of the action on the playing field. But in the case of the newly renovated Folsom Field at the University of Colorado at Boulder, fans are also treated to some spectacular scenery courtesy of Mother Nature. Glorious glaciers and high peaks serve as the backdrop for touchdowns and tackles on the gridiron.

"The views are incredible—you almost have to see it to believe it," says John Meadows, senior associate athletic director. "You feel like you can touch the Continental Divide. As someone said to me, the view is distracting to the game."

While the eye-popping mountain vistas have been around for thousands of years, the stadium's new creature comforts are the latest additions resulting from its recent $42.3 million facelift.

"The stadium was in decent shape, but it didn't meet code requirements," says Gene Fatur, senior project manager for Turner Shaw Construction. Nor did the aging stadium have any hip amenities—like suites and club areas—that can help score additional revenue.

After almost a decade on the drawing board as part of the school's master plan, ground for the project was finally broken in April 2002. The general idea was to build up and over the top of the existing stadium, like a three-story building on stilts. The new construction adds 40 luxury suites and 1,900 club seats. The luxury suites each contain 18 fixed seats and four barstools, as well as armchairs, end tables, couch, a bar sink, ice bin and fridge.

"We didn't skimp on room," Meadows says. "Everyone has plenty of room."

Two 5,000-square-foot (each) club areas also were added along with restrooms and concession stands on the existing concourse, which were widened to improve pedestrian flow. The two club areas are adjacent to each other and can either be left separate or combined into one large 10,000-square-foot space for meetings, banquets, weddings and other private functions. (For example, the space can easily handle a sit-down, black-tie dinner for 600 guests—not too shabby.)

"It's an incremental revenue-generator," Meadows says of the expansion. "It has the potential to earn $3 million/year or more if we can sell out on seats alone. With the rising costs of athletics and the needs of our athletes, that revenue provides us with a pretty good base."

Special public events (like the Bolder Boulder 10K run), community celebrations, concerts and privately booked affairs are just some of the events the school is hoping to host.

"We think down the road, the stadium might have 100 to 200 events a year," Meadows says. "We have our own in-house caterer."

Sales seem to be going well enough. While the school is behind on its sales for club seats, it's ahead on plans to sell out luxury suites by 2005. And the special-event bookings are just starting to gain momentum.

In addition to creating these spectator amenities, the project also had to meet the strict exterior "dress code" mandated by the university, just like other buildings on campus. That perfect CU look includes beautiful native sandstone (handworked), red-tiled roofs and copper gutters—all of which were given to stadium to make sure it fits in.

"It had to have the feel with this part of campus," Meadows says. "It blends in with the rest of campus, but on the east side of campus, it is the defining statement."

Indeed. The 53,500-seat stadium is hard to miss. Aside from Saturday football games, though, it's also a busy hive of daily activity all week long.

"The stadium itself is the largest office complex on campus," Meadows says.

Which is why so much care was taken by planners to reduce the imposing impact and hassles that are usually just facts of life when it comes to construction, including the inevitable dust and noise. The university simply could not afford to have the project disrupt business-as-usual in the surrounding parts of campus—or even in the stadium itself. In fact, the football team had to be allowed to play there, and commencement ceremonies also had to be accommodated on site during construction.

"The toughest thing was the close proximity to all the campus events that continued to go on: graduation, concerts, football games," says Fatur, himself a CU alum. "We had to batten down the hatches the day before. That was the biggest challenge coming into this."

Timing was also another major element. Not only were deadlines tight, but a missed deadline would be pricey. An $800,000 fine could have been imposed if the stadium wasn't ready to host this season's home opener against UCLA on Sept. 6.

"There was a little bit of lost sleep every once in a while," Fatur says of the brisk 15-month construction schedule. Fortunately, the stadium was ready—and so were the Buffaloes who beat the Bruins in the inaugural game.

Both Meadows and Fatur credit the smooth collaboration among the architects, the university's athletic department and the construction crew. When it comes to any project, less-than-ideal communication and strained relationships often can lead to costly delays and construction woes. Luckily, that didn't turn out to be the case for Folsom.

"The project was such a success because everybody just left their egos at the door," Fatur says. "It truly was a great team. Sometimes chemistry works really well on a job."

While renovating Folsom Field was the first phase of an athletic expansion for the university, the next involves building a new field house that connects to the stadium. Plans for the field house include an eight-lane, 300-meter track and a multipurpose field.

Just more space for the Buffaloes to roam.

For more information
University of Colorado at Boulder:

Turner Shaw Construction: