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Q&A: The latest on USF’s proposed on-campus football stadium

“We literally don’t have a financing plan yet. We don’t know how much the stadium’s going to cost.”
 
A rendering of what a football stadium at the University of South Florida could look like. The university's board of trustees is continuing to work toward the project.
A rendering of what a football stadium at the University of South Florida could look like. The university's board of trustees is continuing to work toward the project. [ Courtesy of USF ]
Published Feb. 14, 2023|Updated Feb. 14, 2023

If you’re wondering how much USF’s proposed on-campus football stadium will cost and how the Bulls plan to pay for it, you’re in good company.

Two members of the school’s board of trustees asked similar questions Tuesday during a virtual committee meeting. The answers, they were told, are still being formed.

“We literally don’t have a financing plan yet. We’re working on it...” board chairperson Will Weatherford said. “We don’t know how much the stadium’s going to cost. There’s a lot of ifs and question marks out there. Over the next 6-10 months, all those question marks start to become more clear.”

In the meantime, let’s answer what we can from the latest step in this years-long story:

Related: A brief history of USF Bulls’ decades-long football stadium saga

What happened Tuesday?

The finance committee voted to spend up to $22 million for the design phase of the proposed 35,000-seat stadium. The contract between USF and the design build team of Populous and Barton Malow is 95% done, USF Foundation CEO Jay Stroman told the committee, and should be complete before the next full board meeting on March 7. If the trustees approve the deal then, design will begin.

Where is the $22 million coming from?

Not from state funds, Stroman said. Instead, USF has “well over” that figure ready from sources like philanthropic gifts and investment earnings.

What will happen during the design phase?

Colorado State's Canvas Stadium includes an alumni center.
Colorado State's Canvas Stadium includes an alumni center. [ DAVID ZALUBOWSKI | Associated Press ]

Populous will meet with various stakeholders — students, alumni, administrators, coaches — to figure out what the Bulls want and need. For example, Colorado State built an alumni center in its new stadium. If the Bulls want that, too, they’ll have to pay for it. At the end of the process (6-12 months), USF will have a blueprint and price tag.

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

Why is USF doing it this way?

Construction projects have been difficult because of things like supply chain issues and rising interest rates. This deliberate approach will help protect USF from the volatility, committee chairperson Michael Griffin said. When the design phase ends, the Bulls will have “a full set of drawings that we can have a lot of confidence in,” so they can stay within a budget, Griffin said.

Does USF come up with that budget? Or does the design build team?

That’s what trustee Michael Carrere asked as he urged the board to be “very careful” about proceeding. As Populous and Barton Malow price out designs, Stroman said USF will continue “formulating the overall financial model that will allow us to successfully build this on-campus stadium.” The design phase is intended to allow enough time to find price ranges that fit what USF wants and what it thinks it can afford.

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Related: ‘Failure’s not an option’ for USF Bulls’ on-campus football stadium

What if USF doesn’t like the price tag?

This 2022 rendering by OSPORTS shows what USF's athletics district might look like with the addition of an on-campus stadium.
This 2022 rendering by OSPORTS shows what USF's athletics district might look like with the addition of an on-campus stadium. [ Courtesy of USF ]

Trustees will, eventually, vote whether to approve the final cost and financing plan before construction can begin. If they don’t like the terms, the design build agreement also allows USF to pause or cancel the project.

Were any financial concerns expressed?

Yes. Trustee Jenifer Jasinski Schneider, a professor of literacy studies and president of the faculty senate, asked for better communication so employees understand which pools of money are being used.

“There are people that are in some buildings that have mold and leaky roofs, and then we’re building an (on-campus stadium),” Schneider said. “It’s very hard for people internally to understand how this is all happening.”

Weatherford responded a few moments later:I think the tricky part is, we are being and can be and will be always fully transparent with what we’re doing, but we can’t be transparent about things we haven’t planned for yet.”

Is there a ballpark estimate to build the ballpark?

Weatherford called it a “multi-hundred-million-dollar stadium.” Rejected proposals from other design-build groups ranged from $300 million to $350 million.

Related: How much will USF’s on-campus football stadium cost? Here’s a glimpse.

When might the stadium open?

USF is targeting 2026. The design build agreement says Populous/Barton Malow will owe the Bulls $2 million for every home game the new stadium can’t host that season.

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