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By: Chip Bromfield, ProMotion Ltd.
Three members of the ninth class of the Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame (L to R): Frank Bernardi, Larry Zimmer, Matt Russell.
Brooks: Timing Of Facilities Announcement Uncertain
Release: July 12, 2012
By: B.G. Brooks, Contributing Editor

WINDSOR - The formal announcement of a major University of Colorado facilities upgrade that was targeted for this fall might or might not hit that mark. But the proposed multi-million dollar project remains an athletic department priority.

After specifying a timetable at an informal media gathering in April, CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn said Thursday that a late September unveiling of what he termed a "transformational" project in his department "is yet to be determined."

Speaking at a media briefing following the athletic department's annual summer golf outing - the Casotti Classic - Bohn said he was unsure if "we're on pace" to make the announcement at that time.

"I know that we are working extremely hard to be in a position to talk about that," he continued. "There's a lot of moving pieces in that project and there's a lot of different things that are coming together on that.

"But I think that (a late September announcement) is yet to be determined. So I'm not saying yes and I'm not saying no. But I'm thrilled with the collaboration with the campus and all the moving pieces that have been put together. It's an extremely complicated process, but yet it's one we're spending a great deal of time on. We're pleased with our progress but we'll see about that exact timing."

Four months ago Bohn said he viewed the proposed multi-million dollar upgrade as a long-term solution to many of his department's challenges as well as some of those being confronted elsewhere on the Boulder campus. The facilities plan would reconfigure Folsom Field into a bowl and link the complex, including the Dal Ward Athletics Center, with a permanent indoor practice facility atop an underground parking structure.

At the time, Bohn called the project "transformational" and said "campus connectivity" is critical in the plan. CU faces "some significant challenges associated with classroom space, based on the growth of the campus," he said. "We believe the stadium footprint is a potential solution to that, in a big way."

Other topics Bohn touched on Thursday afternoon included:

Football season ticket sales last season approached 25,000-plus - the most since 2003. "We're working our tail off to try and reach that number again," Bohn said.

The current count is approaching 21,000, according to Bohn, "So we recognize that we have some room to go." He said traditionally the opening of Broncos training camp seems to generate football interest in general and can lead to an increase in CU season ticket sales.

"That's why we kept our pricing structure the way it is . . . we're trying to make it affordable and also continue to assure we're in the right bracket associated with our fans based on our peers in the league and across the country," he said.

Although about 4,000 season tickets need to be sold to reach last year's total, Bohn said that was "not abnormal for us. We generally have attrition each year in that range, which is one way is very, very frustrating. But on the other hand it's an opportunity for us to continue to work and try to put that together.

"We'd like to get to a situation where our attrition is not in that range. I don't have answer for exactly why that is, but it's certainly something we continue to scratch at and put together."

CU endured a rare home season in 2011 that included only five home games. The normal six are scheduled this year, along with the opener against Colorado State in Denver on Sept. 1.

CU will induct a dozen new members this fall into its Athletic Hall of Fame. Three of the inductees were present at Thursday's golf gathering, and Bohn said the 2012 class "demonstrates the wonderful heritage of athletes we have here . . . the depth of our wonderful heritage of Buffaloes. It's exciting for us to pull this group together."

The Class of 2012 will be recognized during the weekend of Washington's visit to Folsom Field this fall (Saturday, Nov. 17). The three inductees attending Thursday's event were former football players Matt Russell and Frank Bernardi (he also played baseball) and longtime radio announcer Larry Zimmer.

Steeplechasers Emma Coburn's and Shalaya Kipp's membership on Team USA has made CU proud on numerous fronts, Bohn said. "That's just a huge boost of wind in our sails, with what our university represents. It's consistent with our guiding principles, it's consistent with our commitment to Title IX, it's consistent with all things that are right about intercollegiate athletics.

"We could not be prouder of those two young women and the way they have represented Colorado and now the way they will represent our nation in the Olympics. We have big expectations for them when they get back in the fall, too."

Both student-athletes have a year of eligibility remaining, and both are NCAA steeplechase champs - Coburn in 2011, Kipp in 2012.

New video boards in Folsom Field are "fully installed" but have not yet been tested. However, he said a "premiere event" for the media that will demonstrate the "spectacular impact" the new boards will have is scheduled for Aug. 10. The event is titled "Your Name In Lights."

"It's going to have a huge impact on our fan experience and we're very, very excited and proud of that," Bohn added.

Along with the new boards, Bohn said he was hopeful of football soon experiencing a similar fervor that was present last winter in men's basketball, when Tad Boyle's team made its unexpected push to the Pac-12 Tournament championship and landed in the NCAA Tournament.

"From time to time we do it and it's the best," he said, citing the environments at past home games against Georgia and West Virginia. Bohn's goal is for CU fans to attend home games "because it's the place to be and it's fun and it's exciting. We get to see plays, replays and all the different things in HD quality."

The program, he agreed, still needs to create an "intensity of interest" among fans who will come to watch the Buffs "whether we're a 20-point underdog or a 20-point favorite, and know that Folsom Field is the place to be and be a part of that.

"That's what's we've got to sell and that's some of the expectations I have. I take that on personally and I think our new CMO brings a part of that. I believe our senior staff embraces that as well and that's what we're working on."

New Chief Marketing Officer Matt Biggers joined the athletic department on July 5, an addition Bohn said would help the department "take advantage of the continued interest and excitement in the Pac-12."

The Pac-12 Network is scheduled to launch in mid-August, and Bohn remains hopeful of the network being carried by DirecTV, Comcast and the Dish Network.

Bohn said he was unsure his staffers (he also included himself) and the media present Thursday could comprehend the impact and significance the network will have on CU athletics.

"The league move was obviously significant, but the network is a game-changer for us . . . it's going to dramatically change the exposure that our fans across the world are going to be able to see," he said. "To have every single football game nationally televised, every single home men's basketball game . . . and the ability to feature other Olympic sports is going to dramatically change the ability for us to escalate the intensity of interest from our fan base.

"And that continues to be our number one priority, which is why we hired a chief marketing officer to help us. Because we have got to fuel the intensity of interest in our program."

Bohn said positive results in that area were demonstrated last basketball season and there is a  "need to enhance that model in the football program and make progress in the women's basketball program, volleyball and soccer."

The finishing touches have been put on the last fiscal year, which included the transition to the Pac-12. He said he was aware that work remained to be done "on the scoreboard" but noted the "improvement in the academic piece is unprecedented. I've got to salute our coaches and our student-athletes for making that happen. It's historic and we're proud of it."

The 303 student-athletes enrolled for the 2012 spring semester had a term GPA of 2.935, the highest since the department began tracking the information in 1996. The previous high GPA was 2.891, compiled in the spring semester of 2000.

Football's new practice field will be dressed up with a Pac-12 logo as well as Buffaloes in the end zone. "Our old practice field was just generic," Bohn said, adding the "neat thing about this new field is all the (yardage) lines are sewn into the field. We'll never have to paint it, we'll never have to do anything to enhance it. It's all permanently sewn into the field. That's a wonderful addition; it's very efficient."

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU 

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