Initial details for USF on-campus football stadium could be forthcoming

Meantime, the USF Bulls Club has announced a record-setting year for fundraising.
If things go according to plan, USF players may be high-fiving fans in their own on-campus stadium in a few years.
If things go according to plan, USF players may be high-fiving fans in their own on-campus stadium in a few years. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published Aug. 17, 2022

TAMPA — Say this for USF’s administration: It knows how to read a room.

During the de facto culinary pep rally called the USF Kickoff Luncheon on Wednesday, new president Rhea Law, athletic director Michael Kelly and third-year football coach Jeff Scott reinforced to a highly receptive crowd their intention to have an on-campus football stadium built in time for the 2026 season.

“We’re doing it for our Bulls, we’re doing it for our community, we’re doing it for USF,” Law told a ballroom full of boosters at Armature Works on the Hillsborough River waterside.

The difference in Wednesday’s message: Some details on the project finally could be forthcoming.

Kelly said one of the three design/construction firms that submitted proposals to build the stadium will be recommended to the schools board of trustees at its regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 6. A special board meeting set for Friday is not expected to include anything stadium-related.

During that Sept. 6 recommendation, Kelly said some long-awaited cost details — at least in terms of stadium design — will be revealed.

Financing details “would probably be down the road for the entire project,” Kelly said, “but we would have a good feel for that, and what we would be asking for support for would be how much we know we’d need to spend on a design aspect.

“That’s still a major commitment, so we’ll be negotiating and figuring out what that is with the recommended vendor, so at that point, we’ll know what will be expended over the next 12 to 16 months.”

Kelly’s update coincided with the school announcing a record-setting year for the athletic department’s fundraising arm. The USF Bulls Club raised $22 million for the 2021-22 fiscal year, with $1.2 million in unrestricted gifts to the club’s annual fund, according to a school news release.

The total was an increase of nearly $15.7 million in funds raised from the previous fiscal year. The club closed 16 gifts of $50,000 or more during the fiscal year (a 23-percent increase), welcomed 25 new Iron Bulls (donors of $10,000 or more yearly) and secured eight seven-figure gifts to the department, three of which were gifts of $5 million or more.

This past spring, the Bulls identified a site just north of the current practice fields as the spot for a 35,000-seat stadium. On Wednesday, Kelly told the audience — which featured the entire 2022 Bulls football team and coaching staff — that once completed, USF will possess one of the finest athletic facility corridors in the country.

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“I’m not just saying this from hyperbole,” Kelly said.

“When you think that we’ll have a brand new stadium, a really great arena (Yuengling Center) that we already have, and have all of our athletic venues within about 300 yards of each other, no one has the ability to build on a relatively new campus to be able to do that.”

The stadium would be nearly adjacent to the sprawling new indoor practice facility, which the football team hopes to be able to utilize at some point early this season. In fact, Law, chosen as the school’s eighth president in March, told the audience Wednesday her inauguration will be held in the indoor practice facility.

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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