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USF Board of Trustees Committee approves $340 million price tag for a new football stadium

A drawing of an open, outdoor football stadium surrounded by trees, buildings, and lakes.
USF Athletics
Beck Group
An illustration of a proposed football stadium on the USF Tampa campus that was issued in 2017. Renderings of the proposed 35,000 seat stadium are expected once the design phase is complete.

The USF Board of Trustees Finance Committee voted unanimously to spend $140 million and take on $200 million of debt for an on-campus football stadium.

The University of South Florida is another step closer to an on-campus football stadium.

The USF Board of Trustees' Finance Committee unanimously approved taking on $200 million in debt and spending $140 million of university funds to build the stadium on the Tampa campus during a virtual meeting Tuesday.

Despite having home games in an NFL stadium — Raymond James Stadium — since their second season in 1998, the USF football team might just have a new home in time for the 2026 season. 

The USF women's lacrosse program will also play its home games in the new facility.

“I think an on-campus stadium really improves the student experience and really activates the campus. It brings some additional reputation to the university and I think it's a positive thing," said USF's Chief Financial Officer Richard Sobieray.

Could the stadium lead to winning?

While the football team hasn’t had a winning season since 2018, he believes a new stadium could help change that.

“I think we've got to put a winning team on the field. And honestly, I think this is going to improve those odds for us to do that," Sobieray said. "I think recruiting will improve as a result of having this incredible stadium."

"We want to win the right way, we want to build a stadium the right way too, and we want to make sure we're doing it while protecting the university. And investing in our student experience on campus."
USF Board of Trustees Chair Will Weatherford

Before the vote, Chair Will Weatherford told the committee this new stadium would be a "game changer for the university."

"We want to win the right way, we want to build a stadium the right way too, and we want to make sure we're doing it while protecting the university," Weatherford told the Board. "And investing in our student experience on campus."

Under current plans, the facility will have approximately 35,000 seats over five levels.

The design phase of the project started in October 2022. The design-build team of Barton Marlow and Populous is contracted to receive up to $22 million for the design phase.

Barton Marlow is expected to present a final maximum price sometime next year, while construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2024.

How to make room

The executive summary of Tuesday's vote said the new stadium "will make a direct contribution to the mission of the University because it will provide needed student facilities and enhance students' University experience."

But construction of the new stadium will displace student facilities currently on the Sycamore Recreation Fields.

Those areas used by student sport club programs, intramural sports, the Herd of Thunder band, and the ROTC.

In another unanimous vote, the committee approved $18 million to complete that relocation. The precise budget for that program is being reviewed and will be approved at a later date.

Officials said the displacement construction will begin this summer and must be complete before the ground-breaking of the new stadium.

Under terms of the $340 million project, USF will finance $200 million with a 20-year, fixed-rate loan with an interest rate of around 5.5%.

The $140 million USF will contribute breaks down to $50 million from the USF Foundation, $31 million from the Capital Improvement Trust Fund, $34 million from auxiliary funds and proceeds from the 2017 FCC auction of TV broadband (including the sale of WUSF TV's broadband), and $25 million from the 2023 sale of more broadband licenses.

The university contributions will not come from student fees.

Some faculty question the priority

But some faculty have suggested that some of that funding could go to meet other needs, such as improving campus buildings and classrooms.

Sobieray emphasized that "the priorities of the university are not just the stadium."

"I understand the sensitivity behind (building the new facility) and we've been really clear that academics is an extremely important priority at (USF)," Sobieray said.

And he added that building the stadium doesn’t come without risk, but that contingencies are built into the plan.

“We are going to monitor this really closely. We’re only going to design a stadium that we can afford," Sobieray said. "And at this point, we have a stadium that can cost us about $340 million.“

The full Board of Trustees will have to sign off on the funding plan when they meet June 13.

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.