I feel it’s important to preface the rest of what I’m about to say by pointing out that I was never for or against the construction of the on-campus stadium at Colorado State. Financially, it did make sense for a school playing the long game. On the other hand, building a new stadium for a team that struggles with attendance and had won eight or more games just twice in the last eight years was worth questioning. Hughes Stadium was a historic venue. A battered venue, but historic nonetheless. I want to point that out because what’s left for me to say will sound very pro-Hughes, and in my five years working at the Fort Collins Coloradoan, we got plenty of complaints from Save Our Stadium (the group trying to keep the Rams at Hughes) and Be Bold (the pro-on-campus stadium group) that our coverage favored one side. From where I’m standing, if both sides are pointing those fingers, I call that a good job of remaining balanced.
Now bear with me as my thoughts starts meander through the rest of this post.
The truth is, I am — and always will be — a fan of Hughes Stadium. But that’s not to say I’m against the new Sonny Lubick Field that opened CSU’s campus in 2017; it’s a beautiful building and the perfect place for the Rams to now call home. To think a stance on this issue, which continues to plague the Fort Collins community (though that sentiment is dwindling) must be binary is ignorant. It’s OK to be a fan of both — there was no community vote, we never had to decide new or old. That’s probably for the best.
For the past month, I’ve woken to one of two sounds in the morning, my daughter’s cry in the other room, or the crashing of concrete and debris into a dumpster over at Hughes Stadium. It’s not that I mind the sound of an old friend fall apart — her time had passed more than a year ago — but it’s the juxtaposition of that sound versus the one she used to wake me with on the Saturdays in the fall, back before I was a father and could actually sleep in on the weekends. I used to wake to the sound of the marching band and blaring stereos that hit the parking lot to tailgate four hours before kickoff. It was the sound of excitement for what Northern Colorado saw as the most important event of the day. For a long time, that event everyone was so excited about was the most important 9 hours of my work week. For 10 seasons, I covered six games each fall at that stadium, showing my press pass to security two hours before kickoff and remaining in the press box for at least another three hours after the scoreboard clock showed 00:00.
The music. The cheers. The boos. The canon. The referee’s microphone that never worked. The press box announcer who repeatedly mis-ID’d which player made the tackle. The coach who praised his team triumphantly after wins and losses, and the other one who’d storm out of a press conference because he didn’t like the question he was asked. Those were the sounds I knew from Hughes. Those were the sounds I loved. Now all I hear is the beep of a reversing bulldozer and the thud of another chunk of concrete and rebar hitting the ground.
That’s hard, honestly. I’ve never been one to struggle with moving on; my issue has always been letting go.
But as the west side of Hughes Stadium have slowly been pulled down throughout April, the center pillar of the press box had remained standing. It was gutted, and essentially just there for show, but it stood, and every morning when I left for work, I’d look out my window just to make sure it was still there. That was again the case this morning. When I returned this afternoon, the press box that helped build me as a writer was gone.
It was inevitable. You don’t tear down a building and leave one part standing for posterity. It’s also a little hard to accept.
If there’s anything I’m bitter about, it’s that the plush green lawn northeast of the stadium is now gone, too, and the entire property that was once open to the public — an area my neighbors and I would use a local park and place to walk dogs and strollers — is now fenced off. If there’s a silver lining here, one of the construction workers who saw me taking photos last week was thoughtful and walked over and handed me a large chunk of the demolished press box. I’ll always have a piece of Hughes Stadium on my desk.
There’s no lesson to this post. No punch line or kicker to leave you with. Just a man’s thoughts as he watches a place he loved crumble, piece by piece.