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What we learned Wednesday about USF’s on-campus football stadium

The Bulls provided an updated timeline, confirmed the expected capacity and detailed the next steps.
USF continues to move toward building an on-campus football stadium, which could look like this rendering.
USF continues to move toward building an on-campus football stadium, which could look like this rendering. [ Courtesy of USF ]
Published Jun. 15|Updated Jun. 15

TAMPA — USF took more procedural steps toward building the Bulls an on-campus football stadium Wednesday, reinforcing an ambitious (if not aggressive) construction timeline, confirming the expected capacity and explaining the next steps for the long-awaited, nine-figure project.

During a presentation to the board of trustees, athletic director Michael Kelly and USF Foundation CEO Jay Stroman reiterated the goal of moving out of Raymond James Stadium and into a new facility for the 2026 season. It was a subtle shift from previous conversations and presentations. Earlier this year, Kelly identified the ‘27 opener against Miami as a potential debut for the facility, but the board’s chair and vice chair have both pushed for an earlier date.

Related: What will USF Bulls gain from an on-campus football stadium?

“It’s going a little bit faster than I expected, which is good …” Kelly said afterward. “It’s on pace (for ‘26).”

Though many stadium details won’t be decided for months, Stroman did confirm one noteworthy item: the expected seating capacity is 35,000. Kelly said the stadium will also include standing-room areas and the ability for future expansion.

The proposed stadium will be built north of the team’s current practice fields. Kelly said the Bulls have continued their due diligence on that site and that he’s “more excited than ever” about the location after talking with officials about traffic, parking and utilities.

USF fans could be cheering for the Bulls at an on-campus stadium in 2026.
USF fans could be cheering for the Bulls at an on-campus stadium in 2026. [ Times (2019) ]

The biggest unknown continues to be cost. At the March board meeting, Kelly and Stroman said they’d provide more financial information in June. That did not happen.

Instead, they updated the board on their next moves. Within the next few weeks, USF will issue an invitation to negotiate —a formal step to get proposals from design/construction companies. Kelly said he has already heard from “just about every architecture firm you can think of.”

After that invitation, USF will then spend a couple months receiving and reviewing those proposals. The goal is to select a firm at the board’s Sept. 6 meeting.

Costs and funding sources will become clearer after that. In the meantime, Kelly and other administrators are discussing other uses for the stadium beyond football. How can students use it regularly outside of six or seven home games a year? What about faculty? Are there community groups that could get involved? The answers will shape how the building —expected to cost more than $200 million — will be paid for.

Related: Florida Gators, FSU football, Miami are no longer top-10 programs

“It’s exciting to talk about building a stadium, but you’ve got to actually know what it’s going to cost and what you’re going to get for that cost,” board chair Will Weatherford said. “That’s the next step …”

Once USF chooses a build/design partner, Kelly expects the design phase to take a year or two, followed by a year or two of construction.

“To me, as long as we’re actually building things by the summer of ‘24, you’re in pretty good shape,” Kelly said.

USF updated the football locker room last year and will have to renovate it again if the Bulls build an operations center as part of their on-campus stadium.
USF updated the football locker room last year and will have to renovate it again if the Bulls build an operations center as part of their on-campus stadium. [ DIRK SHADD | Times (2021) ]

Though a stadium remains years away, Kelly is already talking about the facilities upgrade that will follow it.

Because the stadium footprint will likely include an operations center, the football team will be able to leave its current home at the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center. When that happens, the Bulls will have to renovate the old football locker room and meeting spaces to make them work for other teams.

“How can we make that really great for all the other sports?” Kelly said.

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