The University of South Florida student government approved a referendum in a unanimous decision to ask students if they are willing to pay $6-$9 per-credit-hour fee to finance an on-campus football stadium, the USF Oracle reports.
The referendum will appear on the midterm election ballots for students October 9 & 10 where they can vote yes or no on the proposal.
In a separate article, the USF Oracle stated that even if students approve the referendum, it will not automatically pave a way to an on-campus stadium. Student government will only provide the results to pitch the fee to the USF Board of Trustees if in favor of the vote.
“While the results of the referendum are not legally binding, the input that we can get from the students, if it’s overwhelmingly in favor of the fee, that will give us a stamp of approval which carries much more weight than any clause that says something is or isn’t legally binding,” said Yousef Afifi to The Oracle.
State universities typically do not raise fees or tuition – UCF included – and governor Rick Scott has halted efforts to raise them anyway. If USF’s students, its SGA, and Board of Trustees approve of the student fee it may stop with Scott.
“Hopefully, if they vote yes, a lot of partnerships will be formed,” Travis McCloskey of the Student Government Task Force said to The Oracle.
“We’re beginning talks with Athletics, Facilities Management, many different parts on campus. We would also kind of get the schematics going. So if it’s voted yes, the real building and planning part will really start to become full-fledged.”
The USF Football program, while successful on the field, has struggled year-after-year to earn the support from its fans that come along with a winning season. Jabs from UCF fans remind them of that. Empty seats at Raymond-James Stadium, an NFL venue that hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, frustrate the athletic leadership at South Florida but if only for a moment settle their nerves as the Bucs and Ray-Jay Stadium still show support for the program.
The original proposal for the stadium came from USF Athletics and Athletic Director Mark Harlan. Harlan’s plan includes a 74-acre parcel of land southwest of the Tampa campus and a 34-acre parcel of land southeast of campus to seat around 40,000 fans with the potential to expand to 50,000 – in the same area as UCF and their 45,000 seat capacity stadium.
The price tag sits at $200 million if construction begins early, far above the $54 million UCF spent for an on-campus stadium built in 2007. The stadium in Tampa would feature a mixed-use, modernized concrete bowl build, however, compared to the concrete and metals combination the Knights have.
The crossroads of funding is where USF student government and its athletics program are trying to meet since state funds and tuition cannot fund the stadium.
“We know that these are viable locations, it answers the Board of Trustees, ‘Can it be done?'” said Calvin Williams, USF Vice President for Administrative Services.
“The answer is we have identified locations, now let’s look at the financial strategy, let’s look at the fundraising feasibility analysis.”
“At the end of the end of the day, any student fees have to work through their committees and their structure. So I think right now we’re so early in the process, it’s hard quite candidly to take that off the table. I think we’d have to talk to the students about it and see what they feel about it.
The plans call for 13,800 nearby parking spaces, a 200-bed hotel, retail space, 10,000-square-feet of conference space, and 20-26 suites.
A hopeful timeline and maximum cost for the stadium would be just under $250 million by 2022 for the football program.