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SOS Hughes protest CSU's on-campus stadium, founder Bob Vangermeersch speaks out

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March 13, 2015

It was a beautifully cloudy, warm morning in Fort Collins. It was a great day for a protest.

Save Our Stadium Hughes, the group who has relentlessly fought the soon-to-be constructed on-campus football stadium at Colorado State University, met on the steps of the school’s Administration Building, just feet from the picturesque Oval.

There were around 50 protest participants, some holding SOS Hughes signs, some holding their own, hand-made signs like the one that read “Stop Frank’s Folly.” Of course, it’s clear they wanted to hold the protest outside the building where Colorado State University President Tony Frank’s office resides. Frank has been seen as the major proponent of the new stadium despite the multiple public forums that were held by him during the two-plus years the idea of the project was floated.

The protesters varied from current students to older folks who live in town but have little or no connection to the university to some being alumni. For most, it’s even less a connection to the CSU athletic department.

Bob Vangermeersch, the founder of SOS Hughes, took time for an exclusive interview with BSN Denver.

“What’s the rationale to build the stadium? I can’t think of one. That’s part of the problem,” Vangermeersch started.

“Here’s the scenario: You’ve got a valuable capital asset called Hughes Stadium. Didn’t take care of it. You’re going to bulldoze it in two years,” Vangermeersch continued. “And what are you going to replace it with? A $480 million football stadium on-campus. Does that make sense to you? It’s doesn’t make sense to me.”

(It must be noted here that the two options on the table will cost either $195 or $220 million according to Frank and the CSU Board of Governors, who took Frank’s recommendation to build and voted in favor of the stadium. But, Vangermeersch recently argued in the Coloradoan that the athletic department is currently losing money, they won’t be able to pay down the stadium debt and students will have to pay.)

It wasn’t just a financial argument from SOS Hughes, their founder talked about the environmental impact of building the stadium, as well.

“From an ecological standpoint, the carbon emissions to build that new stadium is 90,000 metric tonnes,” Vangermeersch argued. He said a comparison he worked out would be 18-wheelers bumper to bumper from Terry Lake north of town to Trilby Road in the south, idling 24-hours a day for nine years. “That’s what you’re putting into the atmosphere,” he continued. “As a green university you’re saying ‘recycle, reuse, repurpose.’ You didn’t take care of what you got and we’re going to reward you by spending almost $.5 billion.”

Doug Henderson, who is part of 350 Colorado, an organization looking to solve the climate crisis argued the amount of pollution which would come with the construction of a stadium will come back and be a burden on the Fort Collins taxpayers.

“Right now, under the IGA, which is so weak, taxpayers of Fort Collins are going to end up paying that if they want to meet the target set in the climate action plan,” Henderson argued. “If they want to meet those, the carbon offset costs to reach climate neutrality…the university will never pay for them. If they’ll pay for it, let them commit to it now. But what’s in there now is they say they will ‘strive to be LEED gold’ they will ‘try to be climate neutral.’

“If the City of Fort Collins wants to achieve the climate action goals, somebody’s got to pay those costs. And it’s going to wind up on the taxpayers and it’s going to be tens of millions of dollars,” Henderson finished.

SOS Hughes will be submitting a proposal, Henderson and Vangermeersch said, on Tuesday at 5 pm to Fort Collins City Council that centers around the environmental impact of building the massive structure in the heart of town.

“Their image as ‘The Green University’ is going to get flushed down the tubes,” Vangermeersch warned.

When I asked what he would say to the people who are wondering why SOS Hughes is still fighting despite the construction starting in the coming summer months, Vangermeersch answered, “Why the Hell do they want to do this? We can’t think of why, economically.” Henderson jumped in, “The people are still angry. The people don’t want it, the faculty don’t want it, the town doesn’t want it. People are furious, that’s why they’re fighting.”

John Floyd, a CSU student and homeowner of a house on Prospect road – where game day traffic will be overwhelming when the stadium is finished – wanted to show his love for the city as it is.

“I came down in an effort to stop this stadium,” Floyd explained. “There’s a ‘natural vibe’ to the area right now…the arboretum I’ve been able to ride (his bike) around every day. I love that part of my neighborhood. So, with this new stadium, all that’s going to go to Hell.”

(It should be noted that as part of the displacement of the on-campus PERC gardens, which are located where the new stadium will stand, will be moved just south of Prospect road and updated.)

“In addition to that, it’s very frustrating that we’re going to spend $.5 billion on this new monstrosity when we could spend $40 million on Hughes,” Floyd continued. “And I think that having Hughes Stadium is a cool cultural aspect of Fort Collins. You see games ‘in the mountains’ instead of in the middle of town.”

Floyd conceded “There isn’t a relationship” between him and Colorado State Athletics.

Of course, a majority of Colorado State football fans and athletics supporters on the whole are in favor of the stadium being built. Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium was originally constructed in 1968. It was the first and only football stadium to be off the main campus and was built in the foothills because the university bought the land extremely cheap from the state following Horsetooth Reservoir’s completion. While Hughes has done a decent job housing the Rams football teams for nearly 50 years, it’s clear a replacement is needed.

Frank and CSU’s Board of Governors agree.

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