TAMPA — USF is closer than ever to getting a football stadium on campus after its Board of Trustees on Tuesday agreed to spend up to $22 million to design a 35,000-seat home for the Bulls.
The unanimous vote took place without debate, discussion or even a formal presentation; This all happened at the Finance Committee meeting last month. But the anticlimactic decision on a consent agenda item shouldn’t diminish the importance of an eight-figure effort for a project that’s been discussed longer than the school has existed.
“This is a great first step in our process,” said Jay Stroman, CEO of the USF Foundation, co-chair of the stadium planning committee.
The next immediate step is easy. USF will sign a deal with the design-build team from Populous and Barton Malow, who were recommended to the board in September. Then the formal design phase begins.
Stroman said Populous will be meeting with students, alumni, community members and other stakeholders over the next month to learn what items they want and need at the facility. Conversations don’t have to be limited to sports. For example, campus officials may be calling for the school’s hospitality management program to be integrated into the stadium.
Some of these discussions started months ago in the athletic department. Alex Golesh, first-year coach, said he held three meetings to discuss things like the building’s direction, the fan experience and the football operations center that is expected to be built in or adjacent to the stadium.
Populous will listen to all ideas, draft some of them and price them out over the next 10 months or so. As those plans take shape, USF will finalize the answers to its two biggest unknowns: how much it can afford and where the money will come from. USF hasn’t set a budget, though CEO Will Weatherford described it as a “multi-hundred-million-dollar stadium” last month.
“Because when we come back (to the board) we want to have the blueprint of what the stadium looks like,” Stroman said. “We also have to have the costs and then of course how we can afford that.”
The costs approved Tuesday do not include government or student funding. Instead, the design will be funded from donations, investment income and the sale of former TV-related assets.
The $22 million includes:
• $14.8 million for design and pre-construction
• $3.9 million for other planning such as land surveys, geological studies and parking lots
• $2.3 million for unforeseen design opportunities if USF asks for something unexpected (e.g. space for the hospitality management program, possibly)
Follow the state’s college football teams
Sign up for our free Florida Football Fix newsletter (coming soon)
We’ll be bringing college football analysis and insight – with a national focus – to your inbox weekly throughout the season.
You are all registered!
Want more of our free weekly newsletters delivered to your inbox? Let’s begin.
Discover all your possibilities
• $850,000 for funding
The tentative agreement with Populous and Barton Malow allows USF to pause, terminate or hire new companies at the end of the design phase of the project. The Bulls aim to move from Raymond James Stadium to their new building in 2026, and the deal will see USF receive $2 million for every home game this season that the new stadium is unavailable.
Golesh said he’s pushing for the Football Operations Center – a building that houses things like locker rooms, office space and training areas – to be ready even earlier.
“I keep saying just throw a crane out there and start swinging it around,” Golesh said.
Realistically, there won’t be any cranes swinging at Sycamore Fields — the site north of the team’s current practice fields — for months. But the idea is now closer than ever after a drama-free meeting where there was only comment on the stadium.
“Let’s get this thing over with, man,” backer Joe Robinson told the board in public comments. “Stop playing with it.”
• • •
Never miss the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida College Sports and more. Follow our sports team on the Tampa Bay Times Twitter and Facebook.