The University of South Florida’s (USF) proposed $340m (£274.4m/€315.7m) on-campus stadium has taken a significant step forward after a financial plan for the scheme was given the green light.
USF’s American football team, the Bulls, currently plays at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the University seeking to bring the team home to a new 35,000-seat venue.
In what is said to have been the biggest challenge for the project to date, the USF’s board of trustees’ finance committee yesterday (Tuesday) unanimously approved a plan to borrow $200m for what is envisioned to be an entirely privately financed scheme.
The full board is now set to vote on the proposal on June 13. “The vote today shows that we are investing in athletics in a way to make a significant move forward,” USF president Rhea Law said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The newspaper said that USF plans to spend $140m on the project immediately through $50m in donations from the USF Foundation, $31m from the capital improvement trust fund and another $59m from the sale or expected sale of broadband equipment and licenses.
USF then intends to borrow the remaining $200m over 20 years with an estimated taxable fixed interest rate of 5.5%. The plan is for the University to service that debt, at around $17.8m per year, through new revenues generated by the stadium like ticket sales, concessions, parking and sponsorships.
USF chief financial officer, Richard J. Sobieray, believes these projections are conservative, but admits that the success of the stadium and the team will play a key part. “We’ve got to put a winning team on the field,” Sobieray said. “Honestly, I think this is going to improve those odds for us to do that.”
He added: “It’s not a zero-risk project. But at the end of the thing, I think what we’ve done here is set ourselves up for success.”
USF in September recommended selecting the design/build team of Barton Malow and Populous to deliver the stadium, with the two companies currently drawing up plans. A new American football and lacrosse stadium was earlier included in USF’s facilities masterplan, with a completion date of autumn 2026 having been set for the project.
Earlier in the year, USF selected the Sycamore Fields site on the east side of the Tampa campus to build a new stadium for the Bulls. The location is currently used for intramural sports and is located within the USF Athletics district.