University of South Florida officials announced Tuesday that an on-campus stadium will no longer open in 2026; however, they did release long-awaited renderings.
USF Foundation CEO Jay Stroman blamed supply chain issues rather than the recent decision to terminate a $14.8 million design-build agreement with construction firm Barton Marlow for the delay. Stakeholders now hope to have the stadium open for the 2027 season opener.
Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting did provide good news, as the Foundation is already nearing its fundraising goal. Chairperson Will Weatherford said building a “world-class” facility takes precedence over its timeline in a thinly veiled jab at the University of Central Florida – USF’s primary rival.
“We don’t want a ‘Bounce House,’” Weatherford added. “We want our house.”
Stroman said the expansive football training facility could still open in 2026. USF’s lease at Raymond James Stadium runs through the 2027 season.
The initial design phase, led by Kansas City-based Populous, is complete. In addition to the renderings, USF officials unveiled a new site plan for the 35,000-seat, $340 million stadium at the meeting.
The budget remains unchanged. Fred Hames, the university’s owner’s representative, explained the benefits of switching to a construction manager at risk (CMAR) rather than the previous design-build model.
He said the “more traditional” model would decrease costs and increase efficiency. It would also allow USF “to have a much more direct connection to the design process to get the little things right,” Hames said.
Hames, executive vice president of the construction management firm Barr & Barr, noted that Florida State University and University of Florida officials are utilizing the CMAR model for stadium renovations. Populous has received a notice to proceed, and Hames expects to issue an invitation to negotiate for the new construction contract in about a month.
“We wanted to … provide the best experience possible for the athletes, for students and for the fans,” he said. “We have one chance to get this right. But at the same time, we had to focus on fiscal responsibility.”
Stroman announced a $6 million donation to create the USF Federal Credit Union Champions Way. He said 80% of attendees will take the unique pathway to the stadium’s main entrance.
The school has already raised nearly $43 million of its $50 million goal. Stroman said USF’s leadership would continue fundraising and could use the money on additional stadium amenities, or to reduce debt.
“We’ve done this with no renderings,” Stroman added. “Nothing to really sell except the dream, the vision that you all have put in front of us.”
Over 60 interviews with school and community stakeholders helped establish that vision. Athletic Director Michael Kelly said the field would run east-west instead of north-south to increase shade on the Bulls’ sideline during afternoon games.
The stadium will feature a grass field rather than turf, and a nature trail will provide additional stadium access for students. USF is a preeminent research university, and Kelly said space along the facility’s southwest corner could accommodate sports-related classrooms and laboratories.
He also noted that most schools lack the land to create an interconnected athletic district. Kelly believes that will significantly bolster recruitment and training efforts.
“Some of the best athletic departments in the country have great facilities spread out, maybe even a couple of miles away,” Kelly said. “USF’s, for forevermore, will be all concise, efficient and at an elite level.”
He said the precast concrete design would increase stability and safety. Kelly told the board it also allows for a 10,000 to 12,000-seat expansion.
Earlier in the meeting, the trustees approved selling eight broadband licenses to T-Mobile for $30 million. The proceeds are part of the university’s $140 million stadium funding commitment.
USF will release advanced renderings once Populous completes the final design phase in April 2024. Stroman believes that will help sell naming rights for the stadium and areas within the training facilities.
Project officials expect to break ground in the fall of 2024. Kelly called it “a great day for USF” despite the delay.
“You get one chance to make a first impression,” Kelly said. “And we’re going to make a great one.”