USF’s quest for an on-campus football stadium is scheduled to continue during Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting. An update is on the agenda as an informational item — not an action item — after three companies submitted proposals in July to build a 35,000-seat home for the Bulls.
Whatever happens Tuesday will be the latest step in a saga that has been going on since before the school opened. Here’s an abbreviated history of USF’s decades-long search, thanks to the archives of the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Tribune and newspapers.com:
1957 — Three years before USF’s first class, officials discuss a stadium near what’s now Bruce B. Downs Boulevard during zoning meetings. However, when the academic-focused president John S. Allen presents a six-year building plan in December, a stadium is not included.
1958 — Tampa officials suggest a football stadium as part of a sports complex on Dale Mabry Highway. USF’s expected quick growth and the fact that it “will need a major stadium” in 10 years is one selling point for the community project.
The Tampa Bay Beach and Park Committee pitches an even more radical idea that year: create a recreation area on Big Island, which sits in Old Tampa Bay near the soon-to-open Howard Frankland Bridge. Fill the island in, then add an Olympic-sized swimming pool, shuffleboard courts, a bandstand-theater and a football stadium that could host a bowl game or “perhaps serve as home ground for the new University of South Florida.”
1962-64 — As city officials and consultants consider a site for Tampa Stadium, they discuss USF as an option. Allen, however, is “unwavering” in his opposition to an on-campus stadium.
1965 — Beneath a letter to the editor about “Viet Nam,” the USF campus edition of The Tampa Times imagines what the school will be like in 1972. One prediction is that students will “have a good view from their dorm rooms of the new Busch Stadium just across Fowler Avenue from the university.”
1992 — A 37-member task force determines football is feasible at USF. The proposed Year 1 steps would include announcing a club team, hiring a coach and starting to plan an on-campus stadium.
1995 — As the Bulls move toward starting football, athletic director Paul Griffin acknowledges that a stadium has been discussed as part of a long-term plan. One idea: a 20,000-40,000-seat venue on the site of the soccer stadium. Other potential homes include simply playing in the soccer stadium, at Tampa Stadium or the Thunderdome (now called Tropicana Field).
1998 — While talking about other facilities, Griffin is pessimistic about a stadium because of the cost: “Given a choice, we would absolutely choose to have an on-campus stadium. We were not given the choice.”
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1999 — An on-campus stadium pops up as a potential part of Florida’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics. After the Summer Games, the idea goes, the 75,000-seat stadium would be downsized for the Bulls. President Betty Castor says an on-campus stadium is “not part of my vision” but is open to discussing the idea if “someone wanted to give it to USF,” the Times reports.
2007 — Though the Bulls agree to stay at Raymond James Stadium for at least five more years, they can terminate the deal without penalty if they build an on-campus stadium, as long as they provide a two-year notice. Athletic director Doug Woolard says the idea is “on the radar screen” but behind other projects like new practice fields and a new softball stadium.
2008 — President Judy Genshaft apparently threatens to build a stadium because of a snafu with Raymond James Stadium. The ACC scheduled its championship at Raymond James on the first weekend in December, clashing with a Bulls home game against Big East colleague Rutgers. Genshaft, according to the Tribune, “left voice mails with various community leaders threatening to move games to Tropicana Field or build an on-campus stadium.”
2014 — First-year athletic director Mark Harlan announces USF will begin a formal study of an on-campus stadium. Among his questions: Where will it go, and how much will it cost? “(Once) you have all the information, you ask the question, ‘Is this the best thing for the Bulls?’” Harlan says. “I’m absolutely not saying it is. But we’re going to dive deep and get some answers.”
2015 — The Museum of Science and Industry weighs a plan to move downtown, potentially vacating a massive plot across Fowler Avenue from campus. Officials acknowledge a stadium is one option to discuss. Speculation continues a year later when MOSI announces its intention to move. County Administrator Mike Merrill’s exasperated response to the rumors about a stadium going in MOSI’s place: “Oh no.”
2017 — USF releases a 41-page study about a potential stadium, which would seat between 50,000-60,000 people and cost about $200 million. “If we had the dollars today,” one administrator says, “we’re still 5-7 years out.”
2018 —After getting fan feedback from surveys, USF releases a 171-page market and feasibility study. It suggests a 35,000-seat stadium and uses Colorado State’s $240 million Canvas Stadium as a model.
Sept. 8, 2021 — During the groundbreaking ceremony for USF’s indoor practice facility, board of trustees chair Will Weatherford says the school deserves its own stadium. “I’m here to tell you we’re going to do it,” he tells the crowd.
March 8 — USF recommends Sycamore Fields, an area just north of the team’s current practice facilities, as the site for a stadium. The Bulls also announce a $5 million donation by Frank and Carol Morsani to help fund it.
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