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Gameday Experience: Fort Collins, CO

A great college town breaking in a new stadium!

Brand new Colorado State Stadium.
Leo Castaneda

My Story

My wife and I go to an away game every year or two. It’s kind of a mini vacation to explore another US city and catch some Beaver football. In recent years, together we’ve traveled to Phoenix, Ann Arbor, and Minneapolis on top of trips I’ve had myself to Seattle and Eugene. Last year, we were excited to see a potential Fort Collins trip come into the mix. It looked like it might not happen when a couple friends planned their wedding day on the date of originally scheduled September 23rd date (and they’re Beaver grads, WTH?). We were pretty excited when the game was moved up to August 26th, signalling that the trip was back on! So how does Fort Collins stack up for a college football experience as a visitor among the cities above? First, let me recap our first couple days.

The Trip

We arrived the day before game, getting into our short term rental at about noon. After getting settled, we made our way to downtown to visit New Belgium Brewery and proceeded to bump into a couple dozen Beaver fans. There’s something about traveling to a new place and seeing other fellow fans. You may slap a high five, point to the Beaver logo on your hat, or just holler out a “GO BEAVS!” When we left to head to dinner at Crown Pub for some burgers (definitely recommended), we continued to run into more Beaver fans, many of them short exchanges as they passed by in their car or on a bike.

Enjoying a Colorado sunset before game day.

On game day, we made our way downtown for a bite to eat at Snooze Cafe. Along the way a stranger yelled, “GO DUCKS” at us (he admitted that one of his parents was an OSU grad and the other a UO grad). When we got to the restaurant, the hostess gave some gentle heckling, but fortunately we were there early enough to beat the majority of the crowd and sat at the bar. There we had the best hash browns we’ve ever had while chatting with some friendly local CSU fans.

We then made the trek down to campus to take in some sights before getting to the stadium. The campus is beautiful and surprisingly quite large before finding out the enrollment there is 7,000 more than Oregon State’s. I was determined to find a mascot statue and low and behold, there’s one right outside the stadium.

Statue outside the stadium’s gates.

The stadium is shiny, new, and complete (unlike Reser, “womp, womp”). We got there an hour before kickoff and since it was getting warm, we hung out in the concourse to take advantage of the shade while partaking in an Old Aggie (how cool is it that CSU has a a beer that New Belgium made for them?). A half hour before kickoff we made it up to our seats to take in the pre-game festivities, including watching the marching band as well as four fighter jets and a helicopter flying overhead. What was even more impressive was the student turnout for the game. There’s seating for 10,000 students in a section that nearly runs the length of the field and it was FULL.

It wouldn’t be a football opener without a flyover!

The game didn’t go our way, and that’s always a tough pill to swallow. On the way out we didn’t see any heckling and a few fans stopped to chat and ask if we had traveled to the game or just happen to be OSU fans in the area (it’s easy to be nice to the visitors when you win). By that time it was getting to be five o’clock and 99 degrees, so we hunkered down in a Mexican grill called La Luz for a couple tacos and a margarita that really hit the spot on a hot day. We then sought out some Ben and Jerry’s before calling it a day.

How Does It Rank?

The town - I would rank Fort Collins up there with Ann Arbor. It’s a true college town, unlike Seattle or Minneapolis. The college is right next to downtown, it’s easy to walk around, and the food and beverages have been great. We are excited for the rest of our trip to add a little hiking and sightseeing.

The people - The people around town have been above average friendly and would only rank behind Ann Arbor for most friendly (seriously, in Michigan, people were stopping us in the street just so they could thank us for coming out all the way from “Or-E-gone”). Though I am a little bitter that several groups of people didn’t respond to a cheerful “good morning” during our walk through downtown and to the campus on game day.

The stadium - The new stadium is cool and I love the student section, but the whole stadium experience was a little underwhelming. Fans were obviously excited, but I didn’t feel the energy or sound like I have in other stadiums; this could have been a product of where the visitors’ section is or the fact this isn’t a “Power Five” school, though they sure played like it. Places like Oregon and Washington are LOUD. Shoot, even Reser regularly gets louder than what I heard here at CSU. Even though we got thrashed in the second half of the game, history will say OSU christened the new stadium by scoring the first points.