|Dedicated to the Preservation of Athletic History at Colorado State University
|On-Campus Stadium Dream: The 100 Year History of CSU Football Stadiums
Talk of building an on-campus football stadium at Colorado State University has become a
very hot topic among the Ram faithful in the weeks since Jack Graham has taken over the
reigns as athletic director. It is a subject that is not new to the CSU campus and easily has
been one of the hottest debates on the campus for over a century.
Since the first athletic grounds, later named Durkee Field, were laid out on the small campus
of Colorado Agricultural College there has been conflict, controversy, excitement and
enjoyment surrounding athletic stadiums at the school known today as Colorado State
In 1899, an area of swampy wetlands was drained and leveled to make an athletic and
military drill grounds that lasted for just over 13 years. Known as Durkee Field because in
1901 CAC graduate Charles Durkee donated money to build a wooden fence around the dirt
area, the place where the Glenn Morris Field House is today was the center of attention for
all athletics. Although is was a crude, muddy and downright horrible place to play football,
baseball or run track events, Durkee Field served its purpose for a brief time.
|Durkee Field, the first on-campus stadium only sat 1,000 spectators
in wooden grandstands. It was a crude all-dirt field that frequently
had water running through the middle of it due to poor drainage.
In 1909, college president Charles Lory realized that Durkee Field had no
future and it was sometime in early 1910 he made the first proposal to
move the athletic field to a spot south of Durkee along College Avenue on
higher ground. When Lory made his first proposal to the State Board of
Agriculture he was met with strong resistance simply because they did not
wish to move the potato farm for the experiment station from the site
where the new filed was to be located.
Lory fought the SBOA for nearly two years until October of 1911 when the
site was approved for a new athletic complex. Helped by the new athletic
director, Harry Hughes, the facility began to take shape in May of 1912
when a holiday was declared and all students helped to plow and seed the
land for a new field.
Opened in September of 1912 for a scrimmage game, Colorado Field
boasted a 1,000-seat steel grandstand, locker rooms with hot and cold
running water, a cinder track, two practice fields (one eventually became
the baseball filed) and plenty of room to grow. The new facility was said to
be the first football field build with grass and became the envy of every
school in the Rocky Mountain Region.
As time marched onward, Colorado Field received several upgrades
including a 5,000-seat grandstand with press box. More seats were added
on the east side as the Aggies continued to win championships and gain
national attention under their coach Harry Hughes.
By the mid-1920s when the plans were being made to build a new
gymnasium and field house, Hughes and Lory laid out a master plan of how
the school would build up its athletic facilities. Colorado Filed would
eventually be replaced and a new 20,000-seat stadium was to be built on
the former site of Durkee Field with the new gymnasium and field house to
be built on the west side of the railroad tracks across from Colorado Field.
This proposal was struck down rather quickly due to costs and an
alternative plan to build the gym and field house over the former Durkee
Field site was approved. Hughes wanted to expand Colorado Filed in 1925
by digging the field level down, adding more seats around the stadium and
then building up to allow for a stadium that would rival those being built by
the University of Colorado and the University of Denver.
After the crash of 1929, Colorado Field received only a few upgrades over
the course of time, but the Aggies began a fall from grace beginning in
1935 and the crowds were smaller and smaller as the glory days slipped by.
|Colorado Field, seen here in 1915 from the old campus smoke stack, opened in
1912 and is seen here as it originally looked. This site is marked today by a
parking lot and the Jack Christiansen Track facility. (The building in the center of
the photo is the only one still standing today)
|The west stands of Colorado Field were the signature look of the only true
on-campus stadium in CSU history. They stood from 1921 to 1973.
|Colorado Field as it looked around the time of WWII only received a
few extra bleacher seats and lighting by 1953.
As time marched onward, Colorado Field began to deteriorate along with the football hopes
of the Colorado Aggies. Harry Hughes had long dismissed allowing the Aggies to become
"big time" in any athletic sport and the school received fewer and fewer dollars for
athletics from the state of Colorado.
Envisioning the future - 1947 Campus Plans
In the post-WWII era of Colorado A&M, a new resurgence in athletics began and so did
the enrollment of former War Veterans on the campus. In 1947 a master plan for Colorado
A&M College was designed to lay out a 30-year plan of how the campus should be built. It
showed that not only new dormitories needed to be added, but a new library, auditorium
and even new facilities for both basketball and football.
In the 1947 master plan, Harry Hughes and football coach Bob Davis both envisioned a
campus where all athletics would be moved from the east end of the campus to the west
end of the new and improved Aggie campus. From the revised 1952 report of the master
plan, the football stadium is mentioned as such. "Whenever it is relocated on the campus,
the new location might be 250 feet south of Plum Street and 400 feet east of Shields
Street." It went on to state about a new field house, "The suggested location adjoins the
west side of the west stands of the new football stadium when those stands have been
extended to a reasonable limit."
This plan basically places a new football stadium and basketball/field house in the current
location of Moby Arena and the football practice fields between Plum and Elizabeth. A
1955 film narrated by Dr. William E. Morgan lays out this master plan for the campus.
(Click here to watch)
In 1952 a motion was made not only to rename Colorado Filed in honor of the retiring
legendary coach Harry Hughes, but to step up the efforts to build the new on-campus
stadium in the master plan and name it "Hughes Field" in his honor. It was no secret that
the school wanted to build a new stadium and the retirement of the coach that brought
fame to the Colorado Aggies was almost enough to push it along. The University of
Wyoming had opened their new stadium in 1950 with New Mexico and other schools
planning new stadiums as well. However, lack of funding placed a halt on the stadium
plans and Hughes died in 1953 knowing that a future stadium would be built with his name
on it someday.
The Great Debate
Colorado Field continued to be the laughing stock of Colorado A&M and when the school
transitioned to Colorado State University in 1957. After the 1958 CU game, the Buffaloes
refused to play the Rams because of their lack of stadium support and inability to become
more "big time".
Fans wanted a stadium, but Dr. William E. Morgan, president of the school since 1949,
wanted a library, dorms, classroom buildings and in his words, "No athletic budget
deficit." In a 1996 interview, Dr. Morgan stated, I am not anit-athletics, I am anti-athletic
budget deficit. We had a plan for building a stadium on the campus, but thankfully decided
to move it off the main campus. I did not want a stadium that is used only six times a year
on my campus when it needed more important buildings."
By 1961 the problems with both Colorado Filed and the old gym on College Avenue
reached their final breaking point. When the newly formed Western Athletic Conference
decided not to accept CSU based mainly on its poor facilities, Morgan and his staff knew
something had to be done. The Rams were left without a conference; competing as
independents. This likely hurt the basketball teams more than football because they would
have been conference champions or competed for the conference championships in the
greatest days of Jim Williams' basketball era.
Finally in 1963, somebody in the finance department of CSU found a way to re-appropriate
the bonds for construction and find money to build a new gym and football stadium. In his
1996 interview Dr. Morgan stated, "We decided to place the gymnasium on the campus
because we could use it for more than just sports, that is why we had the 'auditorium'
name added into the name of that building. So we built the gymnasium first and then
decided to place the football stadium on land we had acquired at a low price."
The land Dr. Morgan referred to was land left over from the Colorado Big Thompson
Water Project at the base of Damn #2 of Horsetooth Reservoir. The Bureau of
Reclamation sold the land to CSU for a low price several years before the idea to build a
stadium. The school just needed a change of use permit, which was granted for free from
the government agent.
Many fans and CSU followers have speculated over the years that somebody made money
when they sold the land, but the cold-hard truth is that the land was already owned by
CSU and Morgan did not want to have a stadium on his new campus.
When looked upon at a deeper level, the athletic department and fans had a choice of no
new stadium at all and let football die on the campus, or to have a new 30,000-seat
stadium built off the main campus and allow the sport to live in the Western Athletic
Conference. There was no choice to keep the stadium on the campus.
In a 2011 interview with former CSU head coach Mike Lude, he stated, "The bull farm
was never a real consideration, the stadium was going out by the foothills or it was not
going anywhere. So we decided to build it there rather than keep that old eyesore on
As CSU goes into the Bold New Era with plans for an on-campus stadium, they can look
back on the trials and tribulations of former stadium plans. If it were not for Hughes
Stadium, it is very likely Colorado State University could have become like the University
of Denver with not football, or Colorado School of Mines playing in the Rocky Mountain
of Corbett Hall
|The 1952 drawing of how an on-campus stadium was to fit into the master plan
to expand the CSU campus. Drawing taken from the 30-year master plan of
Colorado A&M College, labels have been added in red.
|Ground breaking of Hughes Stadium, May 8, 1967.
|Want to read more about CSU's Stadium history, make sure you have a copy
of Aggies to Rams: The History of Football at Colorado State University.
Click here to see more
|Proposed location of Football Stadium