USF officials revealed Tuesday that plans for an on-campus stadium have advanced significantly, with hopes that a facility could be ready to host Bulls football games in four or five years.
The university has assembled “an organized effort to move this stadium concept to reality,” Jay Stroman, CEO of the USF Foundation, said at a board of trustees meeting. That effort features a stadium planning committee that will analyze five sites on or adjacent to the Tampa campus.
The cost would range from $250 million to $400 million.
Momentum for the project accelerated in September when board of trustees chairperson Will Weatherford announced that a stadium would be a priority. Weatherford and interim USF president Rhea Law then assembled the planning committee, which is co-chaired by Stroman and Michael Kelly, vice president for athletics.
Members of the committee formed four subcommittees, which have been meeting biweekly. They also formed focus groups to hear from the USF community, and they re-engaged CSL, the Minneapolis-based sports and entertainment company that conducted a market feasibility study for the USF stadium in 2017 and now will update its work.
“The overwhelming sentiment is a lot of excitement and a push to get this done sooner rather than later,” Stroman said. “We want to be aggressive.”
He said the committee is looking for funding options, and that the stadium could be ready for games as early as 2026.
The locations being considered include sites at the corner of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Fowler Avenue, near the research area of campus; the intramural fields near on-campus dorms; the Museum of Science and Industry property across the street from campus on Fowler Avenue; Fowler Field near the Patel Center; and the club and intramural fields in the athletics district of campus.
The pros and cons of each site will be considered, Kelly said, but proximity to housing is an important factor. It will also be more than a facility the university uses just six or seven times a year, he said.
Kelly told the trustees that USF has been in communication with the Tampa Sports Authority and that the university’s contract runs through the 2027 season at Raymond James Stadium. They also have an option to break the lease with 24 months’ notice.
Trustee Oscar Horton asked if building a stadium could help position USF to get into a different athletic conference and “get some decent revenue share and things of that nature as well.” The Bulls play in the American Athletic Conference, a Group of Five division not among college football’s elite. Fellow AAC schools like Cincinnati, UCF and Houston recently announced plans to leave for the Power Five’s Big 12.
Kelly said investment in facilities would play a role in that, as would the university’s graduation rate. A “higher level” conference, he said, could result in an additional $20 million to $30 million annually, he said.
“I hope the SEC will save a spot for us, huh?” Horton chided.
“I hear you,” Kelly responded.
The trustees have tied Law’s performance evaluation as interim president to her ability to advance the stadium plan.
Weatherford, who talked of the football he played in high school and college, said he supported the aggressive pace and added that it was about more than football.
“In all truth, the stadium is about building an on-campus experience,” he said. “It’s about the students. It’s about giving the alumni an added reason to come back and experience this campus once again with their kids and their grandkids and a central location to have incredible memories that are made and remind people why USF is so great.”
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