TAMPA — USF has agreed to spend up to $22 million to design the Bulls’ long-awaited on-campus football stadium. The decision was made Tuesday during a Board of Trustees vote at its regular meeting.
The decision came without discussion or debate. That’s no surprise, as it was on the approval agenda after the Finance Committee’s approval last month. At that meeting, USF Foundation CEO Jay Stroman said the $22 million will not come from government funds. Instead things like donations and investment returns are paid for the design.
The breakdown of the $22 million:
$14.8 million in pre-engineering and design services
$3.9 million in “additional planning services from USF”
$850,000 in financing costs
$2.3 million in Owner Contingency for Design Services
Despite the lack of fanfare, the approval was the most tangible step forward in a year-long plan to bring soccer to campuses. The project is now officially moving into the design phase, although initial discussions have already taken place between USF and the Populous and Barton-Malow design/build team.
Some of the key details have been clear for months. The stadium is expected to seat around 35,000 people and is located just north of the football team’s current practice fields. The Bulls have set a target of 2026 for the stadium to open, and the design/build agreement promises USF will receive $2 million for every home game the new stadium is unavailable this season.
But most of the details are figured out during this month-long design phase. What are the specific football requirements for Alex Golesh, first year manager, and the rest of the program? What about women’s lacrosse? Do students and alumni have other wishes or requirements for the building that have little or nothing to do with athletics?
Ultimately, these discussions will result in a budget. USF hasn’t announced a price tag for the project, although Chief Executive Will Weatherford said last month that it will be a “multi-hundred-million-dollar stadium.” He said during that committee meeting that the bulls “literally don’t have a funding plan yet.”
Although Tuesday’s approval was a significant step forward, many others remain. The framework of the agreement with Populous and Barton-Malow allows the Bulls to “pause or exit the project” or select a new design-build team at the end of the design phase.
The only comment on the stadium so far has come during the public comment phase of the meeting from Joseph Robinson, whose support has been unequivocal.
“Let’s get this over with, man,” Robinson told the board. “Stop playing with it.”
Tuesday’s move was the latest in a year-long process to move the Bulls’ home football games from Raymond James Stadium to campus. The idea was discussed publicly in the 1950s — before the school welcomed its first class of students — and bubbled every few years until its final foray in September 2021. At that point, Weatherford used the groundbreaking ceremony for the indoor practice facility to demonstrate his intent to finally bring college football to campus.
The Bulls’ push comes at a pivotal time in collegiate athletics. The conference realignment continues, with rivals UCF moving from the American Athletic Conference to the Big 12 this summer. Another USF AAC colleague, SMU, is a Pac-12 target and recently received a visit from this Power Five league’s commissioner. Another middle school, San Diego State, is also a Pac-12 candidate thanks in part to the $310 Snapdragon Stadium it opened last fall.
This breaking news will be updated.
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