FORT FUN — That’s what we’re going to call this place. Fort Fun.
They did it right. All of it. The open-air concourse that wraps both ends of CSU Stadium, keeping you connected you to the game while out of your seat. The New Belgium party deck above the north end zone, because who doesn’t need a party deck? The on-campus locale? Made for both schools of students, those in study mode or with hangovers. It's so convenient students should need a doctor’s note to miss games. Save the Horsetooth hike for Sundays.
“Everyone I’ve talked to so far has said it’s been remarkable for them,” CSU athletic director Joe Parker said Saturday during halftime of the years-in-the-making grand opening of CSU Stadium.
Joe talked to me, too, and I concur: it’s remarkable a stadium of this caliber resides in Fort Collins — Fort Fun, I mean. What we’re saying — Joe and I — is that the 36,500-seat gem is even better than advertised, and Lord knows it’s been advertised since 2011. Really, you should go check it out. The Rams play at home on Sept. 9 (Abilene Christian), Oct. 14 (Nevada), Oct. 28 (Air Force, and Troy Calhoun’s Falcons must slow an offense that smoked the Pac-12’s Oregon State Beavers, 58-27), with a couple others tacked on the end.
I’m sure a handful of issues will surface — grand openings are built of Teflon — but I cruised all over the joint Saturday and couldn’t find one thing wrong with CSU Stadium. OK, the lines stunk. That, or “Foco Dogs” are the best hot dogs this side of Dodger Stadium. Even traffic was smooth. One hour, 8 minutes from Denver, with zero stadium logjams? Well done, Rammies.
Here’s the question I have, and it’s not one we can answer after the first game, or even the first season: Will fans show up? They showed up Saturday, for the opener, but that’s the easy one. What about when the giddy vibes, Colorado sunshine and new-stadium smell wear off?
Full disclosure: I stood firmly against the idea of a fancy, schmancy stadium for the CSU football program. When the opponents are San Jose State, Nevada and Utah State — not USC, Oregon and, well, Oregon State — are those 10,000 seats reserved for students going to fill up? Over in Boulder, CU sold just under 10,000 student tickets, and the Buffs played in the Pac-12 title game. Ask any ticket director along the Front Range: college sports in Colorado are a tough sell. We have more autumn-weekend options than other places. CSU had two sellouts in 2014, two in 2015 and one (almost two) in 2016. Like I was saying, we can’t answer that question right now, or later in this first season. But it’s worth watching attendance alongside the final scores.
I asked Parker, the A.D., if there's a number he’s hoping to average. His thought was 32,000.
“I’d feel good about that,” he said.
I’d feel great about that.
I just don’t think CSU fans will do it.
“As long as every seat is full and everyone is cheering and having a good time, I am happy with the experience being created,” Parker said.
Hard not to be. CSU built a Mountain West palace, a worthy centerpiece of Fort Fun. Hope they pack it.