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USF stadium plans take significant step forward

Mark Parker



A rendering showing a revamped athletic district. In addition to approving a design agreement, USF officials heard how the recently opened indoor performance facility is boosting morale. Courtesy of USF Athletics.

The University of South Florida’s decades-long quest to build a campus football stadium reached another milestone Tuesday as the Board of Trustees approved a $22 million design agreement.

The board also heard how the university’s recently opened indoor performance facility (IPF) is already substantially impacting the football team.

USF leadership’s unanimous approval of the design-build contract with Populous and Barton Malow was anticlimactic. Unlike last month’s finance committee meeting, they voted on Tuesday’s consent agenda item without discussion.

However, the latest step represents a significant milestone in what Trustee Michael Griffin previously called the “largest capital project in the university’s history.” In February, Chair Will Weatherford repeatedly stressed that answers – particularly around the 35,000-seat stadium’s cost – would emerge through the design process, which now commences.

“This initial design phase will result in the preparation and completion of the plans for the stadium and will include multiple opportunities for the USF community to provide input on the design of the stadium,” wrote USF Foundation CEO Jay Stroman, co-chair of the stadium planning committee, in the agenda’s executive summary. “The final plans will reflect USF’s unique needs and specifications …”

The up to $22 million in expenditures will not come from state or student funding. Previously, Stroman said the university accumulated “well over” that amount through donations and investment earnings.

Here is the cost breakdown:

  • $14.8 million for preconstruction and design services
  • $3.9 million for additional planning services by USF
  • $2.3 million owner contingency for design services
  • $850,000 in financing costs

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

The agreement states that USF officials can pause or terminate the project – or the design-build team – when the process concludes. It noted that the schedule shows “substantial completion” in time for the 2026 football season, a priority for Weatherford and other stakeholders.

In addition, the agreement stipulates Populous will pay USF $2 million for each home game that season in which the new stadium is unavailable.

The planning and construction team also pledged to utilize small and veteran, women or minority-owned businesses through the construction process. They must make “a good faith effort to meet or exceed the overall participation goal of 36% of total design and construction expenditures” with those demographics.

The stadium’s location is still Sycamore Fields, just north of where the team practices. Officials have yet to provide construction estimates, but Weatherford said “it was not cheap” and called it “a multi-hundred million” facility last month.

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

While USF officials, including President Rhea Law, did not comment on the approved agreement or expenditure Tuesday, there were some stadium-related comments at the meeting. Supporter Joseph Robinson offered his thoughts during the public forum.

After thanking Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly, stadium planning committee co-chair, and Stroman for moving the project forward, Robinson said, “let’s get this thing over with, man. Quit playing with it.”

Michael Kelly (left), USF vice president of Athletics, with new head football coach Alex Golesh inside the performance facility in December. Screengrab.

He also suggested increasing funding so the team’s quarterback could play in the new stadium. Although that is impossible, highly touted Baylor University transfer Gerry Bohanon spoke at length at the board meeting’s onset.

While Bohanon is rehabbing a shoulder injury sustained last fall, he told trustees that he believes a “special” season looms and wants “to be the guy that makes it happen.” Bohanon also noted team’s energy changed since the IPF opened for spring practice.

“It’s ours,” Bohanon said. “That’s the thing – you want something that’s yours, and no one can take that from you. And that’s something that the university provided for us.”

Last year’s starting quarterback said he sat back and smiled as he watched teammates and new head coach Alex Golesh conduct the most energetic, physical and fast practice Bohannon has ever witnessed. After crediting the Bulls’ training staff for supporting his mental and physical health, he relayed his excitement for the new stadium.

“I won’t be here, but I will be coming back,” Bohanon promised. “I look forward to coming back 20 years from now. This is the place I call home, and I just want to thank you guys for it.”



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