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USF football stadium opening pushed back to 2027

The Bulls announced the one-year delay on the same day they shared renderings for the $340 million venue.
 
USF released new renderings of the university’s on-campus stadium during Tuesday's board of trustees meeting.
USF released new renderings of the university’s on-campus stadium during Tuesday's board of trustees meeting. [ USF Athletics ]
Published Dec. 5, 2023|Updated Dec. 5, 2023

TAMPA — USF football fans got good news and bad news about the Bulls’ on-campus football stadium during Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting.

The good news: USF released new renderings of the $340 million, 35,000-seat stadium coming north of the practice fields.

The bad news: Renderings will have to tide fans over until 2027 because the stadium’s opening was pushed back a year.

Here’s a breakdown of what we learned:

Why won’t the stadium open in 2026?

The supply chain remains backed up for items like steel. To try to hit the 2026 timeline, USF would have had to order some supplies far in advance — before the final cost (called a guaranteed maximum price) was set. Fred Hames, the executive vice president with Tampa construction firm Barr & Barr, described that method as “doing it in chunks.”

“It exposed the project to financial risk because you’re not doing everything at one time,” said Hames, the project liaison as USF’s owner’s representative.

The Bulls expect to get the final price next November or December and can start getting supplies then.

Is this related to USF recently ending its construction contract?

Yes. USF was taking an approach called design-build. That means the design group (architecture firm Populous) worked heavily with the build team (Barton Malow). This approach prioritizes speed — great if you’re trying to open a stadium in less than three years — but clients pay more for that speed.

“Why pay a premium for that if you can’t get it?” USF Foundation CEO Jay Stroman said.

USF decided not to and ended its deal with Barton Malow. The Bulls will instead use an approach called construction management at risk, or CMR.

USF released new renderings of the university’s on-campus stadium during Tuesday's board of trustees meeting.
USF released new renderings of the university’s on-campus stadium during Tuesday's board of trustees meeting. [ USF Athletics ]

Why does this matter?

Aside from saving money, USF gets more say in the final product. Its design-build contract was with Barton Malow; Populous was one of Barton Malow’s subcontractors. That means design feedback went from USF to Barton Malow to Populous back to Barton Malow then back to USF.

A contract with Populous will cut out the middleman. Hames said it lets USF give more input on “all the little elements that make a big difference.”

Or, as athletic director Michael Kelly put it, they’ll create “something by USF, for USF.”

What about the renderings?

USF fans have been clamoring for them on social media, and the Tampa Bay Times requested them in September through a public-records request that remains unfulfilled. The Bulls released a few. One shows the current practice fields, a new 200-space parking lot, the football/lacrosse operations building and stadium. Another is an aerial shot showing the stadium nestled in the athletics district.

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Kelly said they show “a modern, futuristic vision.”

What are the next steps?

In the next three or four weeks, USF will formally request construction bids. That process will take a few months.

The board is expected to get another design update in March, and the Bulls plan to reveal more renderings as part of their marketing/sales campaign around the April spring football game.

Groundbreaking is slated for next fall, and the football/lacrosse operations building — formally called the TGH Center for Athletic Excellence — is expected to open in August 2026. The project will finish the next fall.

USF released new renderings of the university’s on-campus stadium, including Champions Way.
USF released new renderings of the university’s on-campus stadium, including Champions Way. [ USF Athletics ]

Did we learn anything else?

USF announced a $6 million gift for naming rights to the USF Federal Credit Union Champions Way. The Bulls have raised $43 million of their $50 million fundraising goal.

Kelly said the field will run east-west, not north-south, to provide more shade during noon games.

Did anyone take a shot at rival UCF?

Of course. When board chairperson Will Weatherford shrugged off the one-year delay, he referenced a stadium “not too far from here” that chose speed over style.

“We don’t want a Bounce House,” said Weatherford, referencing UCF’s stadium. “We want our house.”

It’s coming, Weatherford insisted. Just a year later than the Bulls would like.

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