A $156-million expansion to consolidate all University of Colorado athletics departments into one set of connected facilities is now complete. It was the largest-ever design-build sports project completed so far by the Denver office of general contractor Mortenson Construction. Mortenson was the lead firm of the design-build and Denver-based Populous served as the project’s architect.

The program scope included a 220,000-sq-ft expansion of CU’s iconic Folsom Field; a new 120,000-sq-ft, net-zero-energy indoor practice facility; and a 550-stall, below-grade parking garage. An expansion to the northeast corner of Folsom Field now connects Dal Ward Athletic Center to the east skyboxes and houses the athletic department and football team in the new Champions Center.

“Our vision of sustainable excellence is about transforming opportunity," says Rick George, University of Colorado Athletics Director. “In achieving this vision, each student athlete that takes the field in black and gold will do so bolstered with the knowledge that we¹ve provided them with every resource necessary to be successful—both in competition and in life beyond graduation.”

The new facilities are designed to help student athletes achieve peak performance, while centralizing CU's athletic programs and providing unified and more efficient operations. Additional premium seating and a new rooftop terrace with panoramic views of Boulder’s Flatirons enhance the fan experience. New dining and beverage options were also added.

The project also includes space for physical rehab facilities, with the creation of a high-performance sports medicine center open to the public. In a novel concept for a university setting, Boulder Community Health and University Physicians occupy a 27,000-sq-ft space on the second floor of the Champions Center.

“Very few university athletic departments have an interconnected facility [like this],” says Jeremy Krug of Populous. “This is huge for Colorado.”

While other Pac-12 schools are adding onto their facilities in phases, Krug says Mortenson and Populous designed and built the project concurrently to tackle an ambitious schedule.

Design began in February 2014, and Mortenson broke ground only three months later on construction of the northeast and north end-zone seating. In one of the project’s most ambitious scheduling challenges, this segment  entailed removing a couple thousand seats and having them back in place by last September’s first home football game. Mortenson had four months to dismantle everything and build it back.

“We had to work through issues you wouldn’t usually deal with, and then about a month after the start of construction, the university saw the opportunity to add a 550-stall parking garage under the practice facility. It took a lot of thought and planning to go another 25 ft below grade into rock,” says Mortenson’s Gene Hodge, director of project development.  

Key elements of the project include:

  • A 212,000-sq-ft expansion to Folsom Field.
  • Creation of the state-of-the-art Champions Center, which serves as the new home of CU football and many Olympics sports coaches and the university’s athletics administration. The Champions Center houses a team locker room and lounge, team dining facilities, and a rooftop terrace for game-day and special events.
  • A new Sports Medicine and Performance Center, in partnership with Boulder Community Health, which is open to the public.
  • A 38,000-sq-ft renovation of Dal Ward Athletic Center, which includes the addition of a men’s and women’s Olympics sports locker room, expansion of the Academic Center and a new weight room.
  • Construction of a 108,000-sq-ft, net-zero energy indoor practice facility. The facility serves all sports programs and the six-lane, 300-meter Olympics track allows CU to host sanctioned track and field events on campus.
  • A 534-car underground parking garage below the Indoor Practice Facility.
  • Franklin Field, a 106,000-sq-ft outdoor grass practice field, adjacent to the Indoor Practice Facility.

Project Facts

  • 3,161 total workers
  • Peak workforce of 600 craft workers on site in one day
  • 550-plus days without a recordable injury on the Indoor Practice Facility
  • 2,604 solar panels, creating 1,200 MWh/year of power generation
  • 1,876 seats upgraded
  • 90-ft clear height on the Indoor Practice Facility (to allow punting without interference)
  • 5 pools (hot, cold, treadmill and two recovery pools)
  • 11,285-sq-ft weight room
  • 2,270 tons of sandstone and limestone