CSU Archives and Special Collections

CSU Buildings and Grounds History

A history of CSU's building and grounds from 1870 to the present.

Hughes Stadium/Hughes Memorial Stadium, 1968 – 2018

Aerial view of a football stadium and parking lots around it.

Hughes Stadium, 1968

From CSU's Sense of Place:  A Campus History of Colorado's Land-Grant University, by James E. Hansen, Gordon A. Hazard, and Linda M. Meyer.  Fort Collins, CO:  Colorado State University, 2018.

Architects – More, Combs and Burch of Denver (original), Aller-Lingle Architects P.C. with Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, Inc. (2005 renovations)

Builders – The F. R. Orr Construction Company (original), Turner Construction Company (2005 renovations), Bryan Construction Incorporated (Ram Town), Connell Resources (2018 deconstruction)

2011 South Overland Trail Road

On September 9, 1966 the Colorado Commission on Higher Education voted to allow CSU to build its proposed new football stadium.  The process crossed its final hurdle and now had officially started.  On May 8, 1967, dignitaries gathered, and ground was broken for Hughes Memorial Stadium in the shadow of the Aggie “A”.  The Denver architectural firm of More, Combs and Burch designed the stadium.  Some said the 1963 design of the Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas inspired the design used in Fort Collins.

In June 1968, as the F. R. Orr Construction Company finished its work on the new stadium, the State Board of Agriculture named the large second floor lounge room on the west side of the stadium the “Harry W. Hughes Memorial Room” and officially transferred the name of “Colorado Field” to the playing field at the new facility.  Despite this, the name “Colorado Field” was only used to refer to the former football stadium located on the Main Campus along South College Avenue.

Costing $2,800,000, Hughes Memorial Stadium opened September 20, 1968, for the first home football game of that season against North Texas State.  The NCAA Magazine named it the “Most Beautiful Stadium in the Nation”.  Touted as the “Showcase of the Rockies”, newspaper reports indicate traffic flow problems before and after the game along with a malfunctioning public address system plagued that first game.  To make matters worse, the Rams lost the game.  The new stadium now meant that CSU could host the Air Force Academy on a real “home field” for the first time.  In the early 1960s, the Rams had to play their “home” game with the AFA at the Denver University stadium because Colorado Field could not accommodate the 3000 visiting cadets that the AFA required in their game contract.  The Air Force Falcons played the Rams on October 19, 1968, in the “Dedication Game”.  The stadium was officially dedicated, and the Rams lost the game 31-0.

Stories have it that when the location of the stadium was finally decided to use the 170-acre “Christie Football Site” at the foothills, Overland Trail Road was to be reengineered and constructed into a multi-lane beltway on the west side of the city.  This never happened.  It was also said that President William Morgan did not want a massive stadium standing in the middle of the Main Campus that would only be used a few times each year.  The foothills' location gave the school a 32,000-seat facility designed to be expanded as well as parking for 7100 cars that could easily be expanded too as future needs mandated.  Hughes Stadium had 72 rows of seats on the west side and 47 rows of seats on the east side.  All of the chair-back seats and bleachers were slanted towards mid-field.

By the end of the summer of 1970, work was being done to Hughes Stadium to repair large cracks in the concrete due to settling of the fill dirt, clay and Dakota shale on which the stadium was built.  In the summer of 1977, $40,000 donated by Ram Club members was used to enclose the area below the Press Box with glass and do the masonry and concrete work to create a “President’s Box” capable of seating up to 144.  The carpeted club area was for Ram Club members who were donating $100 or more on a monthly basis to the Athletic Department.  Catered food and alcoholic beverages were served to those using the area during football game.  The new space was named the “Ram’s Horn”.  The next four decades saw more repairs having to be done to fix cracked concrete.

The decades of the 1970s and 1980s saw some improvement of the level of football played by the Rams but still no conference championships or post-season bowl games.  In 1989 the former head coach at The Ohio State University, Earle Bruce was hired, and things began to change.  His first season at the helm produced a 5-5-1 record. 

In 1990 the Rams roared to life as well as the support of the students and fans. The 1990 season saw the goalposts at Hughes torn down twice.  The November 3, 1990, win over #19 ranked Wyoming saw hundreds of students storm the field and pull down the goalposts.  The following week, new ones were quickly purchased by the Coors Brewing Company and installed on Friday, November 9.  This set of expensive goalposts lasted until the end of the Tulsa game on November 10, 1990.  What had once been a celebration had become a safety and logistics problem for the University.  The replacement goalposts were hinged at the base so they could be quickly lowered to the ground.  These were much easier to guard from destruction by rampaging fans. The Rams ended the season with a 9-4 record that included a Freedom Bowl win over Oregon.

During the summer of 1991, construction of four platforms for wheelchair seating was completed.  Each was designed to accommodate two wheelchairs and two companions.  They were designed to better integrate the wheelchair-bound fans in with the other fans.  A total of 40 seats were removed to allow space to build the four platforms.  Handicapped parking areas were paved and widened as part of the project. 

The 1991 and 1992 seasons returned to the sub-.500 records of the past.  Earle Bruce was fired following the 1992 season.  A former assistant coach under Leon Fuller named Sonny Lubick was hired.  His 1993 team managed a mediocre 5-6 record but attendance at home football games showed an increase.  The 1994 through 2003 seasons all had winning records that included several conference championships and high-profile post-season bowl games.  Demand for football tickets soared and this in turn prompted improvements and seat expansion at Hughes Stadium.

During the summer of 1995, a new scoreboard and public address system was installed along with upgrades in the restrooms around the stadium.  The scoreboard and PA cost $435,000.  The scoreboard had a 16’ by 14’ color graphics system and the entire unit towering above the tunnel was 47’ high and 40’ wide.  During the summer of 2000, light towers were installed to provide the lighting needed for the increasing number of televised night games being scheduled.

The first home game in September 2004 saw new south end zone seating added along with new scoreboards.  The main scoreboard above the tunnel had a large video screen in addition to the actual scoreboard and clock displays.  Sports stadium design specialists Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, Inc. worked with Aller-Lingle Architects P.C. to design the renovations started in late 2004.  Following the 2004 season, work began to completely rebuild and enlarge the press box.  Opened in September 2005, the new press box came with a larger “Ram’s Horn” area and 12 private boxes.  Two additional elevators were added.

During the spring and summer of 2006, the natural turf field was removed.  The field drainage system was reengineered, and artificial sports turf was installed.  The only natural grass that now remained was on the hillside at the south end of the stadium that flanked the tunnel.  The first game played on the new turf was on September 2, 2006, against Weber State.  The Rams won the game.  The games the rest of the season were all losses that began the process of the eventual firing of Coach Sonny Lubick at the end of the 2007 season.  This was despite the fact that the field at Hughes Stadium had been named in his honor (“Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium”).  This naming was mandated by Patricia Stryker, the person donating the money to do all of the stadium upgrades.  In the fall of 2007, the pre-game fan experience of “Ram Town” was started.

In 2011, a landscaping upgrade of the parking areas was made with extensive plantings, irrigation systems and new walkways.  Many of the parking areas were covered with crushed asphalt from the parking lot north of the Engineering Building and Lory Student Center.

In December 2011, newly hired Athletic Director Jack Graham announced that he would be leading the way to have a new football stadium built on the Main Campus so that students and alumni could walk to the games. Jack Graham said that a new stadium “would be a game changer” for the CSU football program.  President Tony Frank said he agreed with this idea.  Many other people did not.  This raised a great deal of public concern and heated debates.

On October 4, 2012, the Board of Governors officially endorsed the plan and the process to raise the needed $250 million from private sources was started.  What would be done with Hughes Stadium was not yet publicly discussed by university officials.

During the summer of 2013, a new $600,000 video scoreboard was installed in the south end zone.  The 2004-vintage video portion of the scoreboard was having problems with some of its electronic panel sections.  The company that made the unit had gone out of business and replacement parts were not available.

Concrete repair work took place on the north and south concourses during the summer of 2014.  In December 2014, it was announced that although the attempt to generate enough money through private donations had fallen short, the new on-campus stadium would be built and that bonds would be sold to finance the project.  The cost of building a new stadium was felt to be justified in that millions of dollars would be needed each year to continue to keep fixing Hughes Stadium to simply keep it standing.  It was also felt that efforts were being made to try to get membership in one of the five big “power” conferences and having a new stadium would be very helpful in reaching this goal.  This mirrored some of the efforts made five decades earlier when having a new stadium was felt necessary for CSU to be admitted into the Western Athletic Conference.

On March 19, 2015, $239 million in bond sales was secured by the Colorado State University System to finance the new stadium.  Work on the site started in late May 2015 with the intent of using the new stadium beginning in August 2017. 

The 2016 football season was the 49th and final season Hughes Stadium was used.  Each of the six games played that season remembered one of the decades that the old stadium was used as the “Home of the Rams”.  Former coaches and players were brought back each game as a different decade was remembered. The final game was played the evening of November 19, 2016, in a Mountain West Conference match-up with the New Mexico Lobos.  The Rams won this game 49-31.  Following the game, the lights at Hughes Stadium were ceremoniously extinguished by selected University officials and alumni.

It was said by Athletic Department officials that the Daktronics video scoreboard at the south end of Hughes was to be moved to CSU-Pueblo for their football stadium.

The fate of Hughes Stadium was publicly discussed beginning in the fall of 2017.  One plan mentioned was to remove the old stadium and use the tract to build affordable housing for the lower paid workers at the University.

On April 10, 2018 crew using heavy equipment began tearing down the press box structure on the west side of the old stadium.  The $3.3 million deconstruction contract called for at least 70 percent of the materials to be recycled and not placed in a landfill.  Connell Resources was the contractor hired to recycle the concrete and rebar.  The plan was to clear away the stadium, return the site to its original topography and then move on to the next step of selling or reusing the acreage.  By the end of May 2018 most of old Hughes Stadium had disappeared.

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