The USF on-campus football stadium project quietly is moving into its next phase.
The design-build team — led by construction company Barton Malow and architecture firm Populous — spent weeks meeting with the Bulls, school officials, students, fans and other stakeholders about the estimated $340 million project. Now they’re taking that feedback and starting to incorporate it into the latest designs.
“It’s great to hear their vision…” said Len Moser, Barton Malow’s vice president, sports. “It’s going to happen.”
USF has only authorized $22 million for design, so the board of trustees must eventually approve the full budget and construction — a two-step process Moser said is common in higher education. Moser expects to present a guaranteed maximum price in the spring or summer of 2024 to meet USF’s goal of opening a 35,000-seat stadium north of the practice facilities for the 2026 season.
Moser recently spoke with the Tampa Bay Times for a Q&A that has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Why was this a project that appealed to you all?
It really lines up with a lot of Barton Malow’s strengths, probably corporately and locally here in central Florida, being a sports project, one, but also a higher education project. When those line up, that’s automatically appealing to us. Then I think USF being a new client for us. We love to expand our client base. I know we’ve worked up and down the west coast there of Florida since the ‘70s. We just opened our office there in Tampa, as well.
The on-campus part of this project is huge. They talk about bringing the team home, if you will, back on campus. To be involved in that really transformational kind of project is huge. Those don’t come along very often.
How much different is building a stadium now vs. when you built Orlando’s Exploria Stadium in 2017?
Certainly the supply chain challenges are really front of mind. Everyone’s aware of that. I think we continue to do our best to identify those early, advise our owners about it, preplan so that we’re ahead of those kind of things. We talked about long lead items. Those were more about a couple months of lead time vs. what now can be a year or more of a lead time for a particular piece of equipment.
It’s also putting pressure on owners and their budgets and their funding, right? We’re coming to them saying, ‘Hey, we need to release this equipment early to meet the schedule,’ and they may not be there with their funding. Their financing plans may not be in place yet. That’s even, I think, more important for us in our preconstruction and planning to pull all those things together to make sure we stay on track.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
The financing and funding — that’s not a you issue necessarily, but it’s an issue with USF on the other side because the cost of borrowing money has changed so much. I’m sure that has dramatic impacts on what you do.
It does. State universities relying on Tallahassee and then having their internal fundraising ... there’s a lot of moving parts, which is why these projects take a long time. But it’s good to see the excitement with the leadership at USF. Everybody is for the project, and we’re very excited about that, because that means we’re very confident things will move forward when you see that kind of excitement.
I can vouch for the enthusiasm and interest.
We’re seeing it, too, in the market with our subcontractors and suppliers. As busy as everyone is, this project specifically gets a lot of attention, which I think will be good for the project in general, for the budget. A lot of competition for our (diversity) goals.
What gives you confidence you can hit that 2026 timeline?
I think our experience with this kind of project. The size, the dollar value and then the time that they have in their plan for construction all are things that we’ve encountered before, and we’ve delivered. Obviously it’s incumbent on USF to get their funding and their financing together, and they’ve been working on all that. They’re confident that that’s all going to line up when we need to go before the board and get the blessing to move into construction.
What can you do for a USF stadium that you wouldn’t have been able to do 20 years ago?
I think it’s that the social-ness of these stadiums, so it’s not sit in your seat for three hours to watch a football game. There’s all kinds of different things to do, places to be, places to hang out, standing room, different views and vistas of the field, views and vistas back to campus. I think it’s more about that whole overall experience than it used to be when it was, ‘Give me the biggest seating bowl, make sure I have access to restrooms and concessions and give a certain view of the field.’
Now it’s just broadened to a lot more things to keep fans coming back to the stadium. Wining helps, too, obviously. You’ve got to win. I think in this facility, too, the university really wants it to be year-round, multipurpose, not just football.
Is that similar to other projects you’ve done?
More and more. It’s that multipurpose function, 365 operation. How do we keep it activated both for revenue as well as just for appearance? When you’ve got a facility that’s in use, it’s a little easier upkeep than if it’s sitting idle.
What do you want the casual USF fan to know about this project and why it’s important?
If you’re a USF fan in any capacity, student, alum, part of the community, it’s going to be transformational to the campus, to the student body, to the student life experience. It’s really going to change not just the physical landscape of the campus but just the whole energy, the whole availability of amenities and of opportunities with the 365 operation. I don’t know if the casual fan thinks about it more than just — because it’s called the on-campus football stadium, that it’s being thought of in a broader sense. The casual fan might not just recognize quite yet, but they’ll see the results, though.
These projects, we have one foot on the brake and one on the gas. One day, it doesn’t feel like a lot’s happening. There’s not a lot of decisions being made. It feels like progress is just prodding along. Then the next day, there’s a deal made, and it’s like, ‘Go, go, go, full speed ahead.’ That’s what makes it fun. It’s sometimes frustrating, but at the end of the day, it’s always fun to get on the gas and get to the finish line.
• • •
Sign up for the Florida Football Fix weekly newsletter as Matt Baker offers his analysis of trends, news and hot topics around college football — and how they affect our state teams. Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.