Campus football stadium talks advance at USF

USF officials revealed on Tuesday that plans for a stadium on campus had advanced considerably, with hopes that a facility could be ready to host Bulls football games in four or five years.

The university has put together “an organized effort to make this stadium concept a reality,” Jay Stroman, CEO of the USF Foundation, said at a board meeting. This effort includes a stadium planning committee that will analyze five sites on or adjacent to the Tampa campus.

The cost would be between $ 250 million and $ 400 million.

Momentum for the project picked up in September when board chairman Will Weatherford announced that a stadium would be a priority. Weatherford and interim USF president Rhea Law then convened the planning committee, which is co-chaired by Stroman and Michael Kelly, vice president of athletics.

Committee members have formed four sub-committees, which meet every two weeks. They also formed focus groups to hear from the USF community, and they re-engaged CSL, the Minneapolis-based sports and entertainment company that conducted a market feasibility study for the USF stadium in 2017 and will now update its work.

“The overwhelming feeling is a lot of excitement and pressure to get it done as soon as possible,” Stroman said. “We want to be aggressive.

He said the committee was looking for funding options and the stadium could be ready for games as early as 2026.

The locations being considered include sites at the corner of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Fowler Avenue, near the campus research area; the intramural fields near the dormitories on campus; the property of the Museum of Science and Industry opposite the campus on Fowler Avenue; Fowler Field near the Patel Center; and the club and intramural grounds in the athletics district of the campus.

The pros and cons of each location will be taken into account, Kelly said, but proximity to housing is an important factor. It will also be more than a facility that the university will only use six or seven times a year, he said.

Kelly told administrators that USF is in communication with the Tampa Sports Authority and that the college’s contract runs until the 2027 season at Raymond James Stadium. They also have the option of breaking the lease with 24 months’ notice.

Administrator Oscar Horton asked if building a stadium might help position USF to participate in a different sports conference and “get a decent share of the income and things of that nature as well.” The Bulls play in the American Athletic Conference, a non-elite group-five division of college football. Other AAC schools like Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston recently announced their plans to leave for the Power Five Big 12.

Kelly said investment in facilities will play a role in this, as will the college’s graduation rate. A “top-level” conference, he said, could bring in an additional $ 20 million to $ 30 million a year, he said.

“I hope the SEC gets us a spot, eh?” Horton chided.

“I can hear you,” Kelly replied.

Trustees tied Law’s performance as interim president to her ability to move the stadium plan forward.

Weatherford, who spoke about the football he played in high school and college, said he keeps up the aggressive pace and added that it is more than just football.

“The truth is, the stadium is about creating an experience on campus,” he said. “It’s about the students. It’s about giving alumni one more reason to come back and experience this campus again with their children and grandchildren and a central location to make amazing memories and remind people why USF is so great.

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