WINDSOR — Colorado athletic director Rick George has no plans to stop fundraising for the $143 million facilities project in and around Folsom Field, even though he is in the process of securing a major gift that will put his department over the top in raising one-third of that money in private gifts.
During a roundtable meeting with members of the media Thursday afternoon, following the 20th annual Fred Casotti Classic golf tournament at Pelican Lakes Golf Club, George said he is on the verge of raising the $47.6 million mandated by the Board of Regents when they approved the project in December.
"That's just a start," George said. "We're going to continue to fundraise toward this project for the next several months. That's always been a number that was out there that we needed to hit. Once this gets papered, we'll be over that number, and we've still got a lot of fundraising to do."
CU will sell bonds later this year to raise the remainder of the money to pay for the project at Folsom Field, and the athletic department will pay off those bonds over time. George said raising more money means selling fewer bonds and paying less debt in the future.
"It's been challenging and daunting at times, but what we've found is we have a great team that is out there working on it," George said.
George will celebrate the one-year anniversary of his hiring next week and the one-year anniversary of his first day on the job in mid-August. In that time, he has raised the vast majority of more than $47 million, smashing all previous records for fundraising in a single year by the CU athletic department.
Prior to this, CU athletics had never raised more than $15 million in any single year and had never received an individual gift larger than $5 million.
But there was more good news for an athletic department that has been financially strapped in recent years. George said he inherited a $5.6 million budget shortfall for the 2013-14 fiscal year when he was hired and managed to trim that to $4 million when the fiscal year ended last week.
George said it was accomplished by not filling some vacant positions, making other positions temporary, and asking people in the department with budget responsibilities to "spend what they need, not what they want."
"It has been a group effort to get that done," he said.
George said his department also submitted a balanced budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year. It is the first time in several years the department has not started a fiscal year expecting to incur more debt. In fact, George said if things go the Buffs' way, CU might actually make money by June 30, 2015 and be able to pay down some of its existing debt a little faster.
"We had to make some tough decisions and not do some of the things that we'd like to do, but we're going to operate in a fiscally responsible manner moving forward," George said. "So we're pretty proud of that."
George said football season-ticket sales are ahead of where they were at this time last year, but "not by a significant amount." The department has started selling seats in several new seating areas in the north end zone and the northeast corner of the stadium, and is in the process of looking for naming rights partners for the loge boxes in the north end zone.
George said there are no plans to make beer and other alcohol more widely available in Folsom Field or the Coors Events Center on game days. Currently, alcohol is only available in club and suite sections of Folsom Field and in an area accessible to season ticket holders at the events center. ... George said there are no plans to move away from a natural grass playing surface at Folsom Field any time in the near future. ... George said there are still plans to allow tailgating in the Franklin Field area in the future after construction of the indoor practice facility is complete, but fans might not be able to park cars in that area because it will be home to two practice fields as well.