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USF takes another step toward building its own stadium as school chooses site

The Sycamore Fields site is under consideration, which board members say meets most criteria for a new stadium.

TAMPA, Fla. — The University of South Florida is one step closer to getting its own football stadium.

On Tuesday, the university’s board of trustees heard a presentation on what they now consider to be the best location for a new stadium. For now, the Bulls play their home games at Raymond James Stadium.

“I’m highly confident it’s going to happen,” said USF Athletic Director Michael Kelly. “Today is another step forward and kind of proving that it will.”

Kelly told the USF Board of Trustees they’d looked at five possible sites for a new stadium and settled on Option E, which was referred to as the Sycamore Fields site between USF Holly and Sycamore drives.

“We’re very pleased about where we’ve proposed the site to be, which is right at Sycamore Fields,” Kelly said. “Historically fitting since that’s where the birth of our program and was where our very first practices were for many many years.”

Option E, they said, also did the best job of meeting nine criteria set out by the board: Good for fans. Good for students. Easily accessible. And providing a synergy between existing athletic facilities and those still to come.

“I think it’s great, a great window for all of us to make sure that the surrounding community is really engaged in football at USF,” said USF Trustee Melissa Seixas, “because they didn’t want to go to the stadium on Dale Mabry.”

Kelly said, “To have such a concise footprint, to have every aspect of your athletic department within a couple of hundred yards of each other like that, is unusual and I think we’ll set us in a great position for the future.”

Board members did raise some concerns about visibility and whether a site along Fowler Avenue might get them more exposure. But ultimately, the trustees said they liked what they heard, encouraging Kelly to move forward with the ambitious goal of funding, design and completion by 2026 or 2027.

“I know that 2026 timeline scares people and it sounds very aggressive,” said USF Trustee Will Weatherford, “But I don’t think we can wait. I think the student body deserves the experience. I think the alumni deserve the experience.”

Now that they know what site they’re aiming for, the board will get another report in June laying out how much it would cost.

Early estimates are between $250 million to around $400 million for a stadium seating between 35,000 and 40,000 people.

“It’s typically about a year and a half to two years of design and then it’s usually about a year and a half to two years of construction,” Kelly said. “So, the sooner we get into full-blown specific design, that’s the sooner we’ll get it.”

Most of the cost, said Kelly, would come from bonds and philanthropy, which includes donations from alumni and others.

Kelly said USF had already taken a nice step in that direction with a $5 million commitment from the Morsani family, which has historically been a generous donor on the USF campus.

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