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USF stadium costs: More questions than answers

Mark Parker

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New on-campus stadium renderings will soon emerge. Image: USF Newsroom.

The University of South Florida’s Finance Committee approved spending $22 million to design an on-campus stadium; its overall cost and how USF will pay for it remains a mystery.

Board of trustees members met virtually Tuesday to discuss their ongoing quest to build a football stadium on the Tampa campus. Jay Stroman, CEO of the USF Foundation, said the next step in a systematic process was to allocate the resources necessary to design the proposed 35,000-seat facility.

He told the board’s finance committee that a contract between USF and the Populous and Barton Marlow design-build team is 95% complete. However, more questions than answers remain for what committee chair Michael Griffin called “the largest capital project in the university’s history.”

“We literally don’t have a financing plan yet,” said board chair Will Weatherford. “We’re working on it. We don’t know how much the stadium is going to cost. Over the next 6-10 months, all those question marks start to become more clear.

“We’re not going to build a multi-hundred million stadium without explaining well ahead of time how we’re going to pay for it …”

What we do know

Stroman said a term sheet with Populous/Barton Marlow is complete, and he expects to bring a final design contract before the board at its next meeting in March. He explained Populous would then meet with a long list of various stakeholders to ascertain what they would like to see in a stadium.

Following that process, USF officials will have a blueprint and cost estimate. Stroman said they would also have a detailed construction timeline, and the goal is still to open the stadium in time for the 2026 season.

The $22 million will not come from state funding, Stroman said. He relayed that the university accumulated “well over” that amount through donations and investment earnings.

Griffin noted the volatility of construction costs over the past couple of years and said detailed design plans would help officials stay within a budget. Stroman explained that they would formulate a financial model and establish what they could afford parallel to that process.

Weatherford expressed the significance of just making it to the design phase. “Make no mistake about it,” Weatherford said, “this is a transformational project for the future of this university.”

“It’s not cheap,” he added. “But I appreciate our team putting the extra effort into making sure we’re not using dollars that would go towards educating our students or paying faculty to build this facility, and to design this facility.”

A rendering showing a revamped athletic district with an on-campus stadium serving as its anchor. Courtesy of USF Athletics.

Concerns

Trustee Jenifer Jasinski Schneider, president of the faculty senate, asked for clear communication so employees can better understand how the university is paying for a stadium. During the proposal process, estimates ranged from $300-$350 million.

“There are people in some buildings that have mold and leaky roofs” while USF’s leadership discuss stadium funding, she noted.

“I know another item on the agenda is raising housing fees for students,” Schneider added. “It’s very hard for people to internally to understand how this is all happening.”

Weatherford expressed his desire for transparency but said the lack of a financing plan impedes that goal. He pledged to communicate those details with university and community stakeholders as they emerge.

Once USF officials establish that plan, it would go before the state’s board of governors for final approval. Weatherford acknowledged the angst for more information but said most of that must wait until the 6-10 month design phase concludes.

“Almost every major university in America has figured out how to build a stadium on their campus,” Weatherford said. “We can too, and we’re going to. This is an exciting time.”

The committee unanimously approved spending up to $22 million to begin the on-campus stadium design phase before moving into a discussion on student housing rental rates.

 

 

 

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1 Comment

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    Jim Mignerey

    February 16, 2023at5:15 pm

    USF needs an on-site football stadium. Sounds great

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