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Time for USF to get serious about on-campus football stadium


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http://www2.tbo.com/list/columns-jhenderson/time-for-usf-to-get-serious-about-on-campus-football-stadium-20151128/

 
JOE HENDERSON COLUMNS
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Time for USF to get serious about on-campus football stadium

USF has kicked around the idea of building an on-campus stadium for years, but talk subsided when the Bulls struggled the past few seasons. They’re winning now and are said to be actively studying the stadium idea again.  TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO
USF has kicked around the idea of building an on-campus stadium for years, but talk subsided when the Bulls struggled the past few seasons. They’re winning now and are said to be actively studying the stadium idea again. TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO
 
By Joe Henderson | Tribune Staff Joe Henderson on Google+ 
Published: November 28, 2015   |   Updated: November 29, 2015 at 12:57 AM

 

College football is meant to be played in stadiums located on campus. If you’ve been to games at the University of Florida, Florida State or Central Florida, you know what I mean.

 

 

The campuses come alive as the alumni return and tailgate before kickoff, the students take their places and the bands start playing. The stadiums become a rallying point for generations to connect, and the University of South Florida needs to build one.

 

 

USF has kicked the idea around for years, but talk subsided when the Bulls struggled the past few seasons. They’re winning now and are said to be actively studying the stadium idea again. I certainly hope that’s true, and I hope the decision will be to start digging as soon as plans can be drawn and money raised.

 

 

The Bulls have played about 11 miles from campus at Raymond James Stadium since their inception. The rationale was that USF was going to build a nationally recognized program and needed a first-class facility. RayJay certainly is first class.

 

 

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Although they occasionally attract large crowds there, the Bulls usually consider something around 30,000 fans to be a good night. A crowd like that gets lost in a stadium as large as RayJay, much like it did last week when the Bulls buried Cincinnati 65-27 on national TV.

 

 

The resurgence of the program this season under coach Willie Taggart should reinvigorate a movement to build a smaller, suitable on-campus stadium. The window for such a thing is opening now, since the Bulls are having a good season after a few years of wandering in the desert.

 

 

An on-campus stadium could only enhance USF if the major conferences realign in a few years, which many consider likely. Getting into a league like the Big 12 or Atlantic Coast Conference would be an incredible boost to the Bulls.

 

 

Is it feasible?

 

 

I asked Randy Simmons, chairman of the R.R. Simmons group. His company did an outstanding job in building USF’s athletic center, the baseball and softball stadiums and basketball practice facility.

 

 

“The dilemma is where to put it,” Simmons said. “It does require a large footprint, and you would want it to be expandable.”

 

 

There are a couple of potential on-campus spots, but the most likely seems to be where the USF track and tennis facility are located. That would require, as Simmons said, some “reshuffling” for those sports, but it could be done. He said another potential problem is the direction a new stadium would face. Most stadiums face north-south, but building where the track is located could make the stadium face east-west, into the sun.

 

 

Parking is always an issue at USF, but there are about 20,000 spaces on campus, and that should be enough to cover most weekend games.

 

 

The question of how to pay for something like this will have to be answered before anything else. But with the late Lee Roy Selmon taking the lead, the school raised the money to pay for the other athletic facilities Simmons built. It can be done.

 

 

Generally, college stadiums aren’t plush. Hard bleachers are the norm; go to a Gators game sometime and you’ll see what I mean. USF can think bigger than that, though. It already has. After recent renovations, the Sun Dome went from a tired, uninspiring place to one that rivals any college arena in the country.

 

 

USF football is starting to get some national notice again. The Bulls got a vote last week in The Associated Press poll. They are headed to a bowl game after a drought. The team is fun to watch. This is the time to strike.

 

 

USF should do just that, as quickly as possible.

 

 

The window is open.

 

 

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The Painted Man:

I'm sure you have inside knowledge. However, we can't assume that it's written in stone because unlike you, most of us haven't seen blueprints. I think we'd usually we'd hire someone like  populous to create such plans after the announcement.

 

Secondarily, if it's already in the plans... it would be pretty foolish to plan on waiting two full years... We need to strike while the iron is hot.

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If these schools can build a stadium I'm sure USF could figure out how to fund an on campus stadium.  There are only a handful of schools that do not play in their own stadium.  Lots of C-USA, MAC and American schools in the most recent stadium projects list so we would have similar resources to build a stadium.  

 
Image Stadium City State Team Conference Capacity Record1 Built Expanded2
Houston Football Stadium north side stands construction, September 2013.jpg John O'Quinn Field at TDECU Stadium Houston TX Houston American 40,000 40,755
(August 30, 2014 vs. UTSA)[66]
2014  
McLane Stadium facingsouth7.16.14.jpg McLane Stadium Waco TX Baylor Big 12 45,140 45,733
(August 31, 2014 vs. SMU)[84]
2014  
Yulman Stadium Homecoming.jpg Benson Field at Yulman Stadium New Orleans LA Tulane American 30,000 30,000
(September 8, 2014 vs. Georgia Tech)[159]
2014  
McColl-Richardson Field.JPG Jerry Richardson Stadium Charlotte NC Charlotte C-USA 15,314   2013  
Apogee Stadium front.jpg Apogee Stadium Denton TX North Texas C-USA 30,850 28,075
(September 10, 2011 vs. Houston)[8]
2011 N/A
FAUStadium night.jpg FAU Stadium Boca Raton FL Florida Atlantic C-USA 30,000 29,103
(October 15, 2011 vs. Western Kentucky)
2011 N/A
TCF Bank Stadium - Minnesota Golden Gophers.jpg TCF Bank Stadium Minneapolis MN Minnesota Big Ten 52,525 51,241
(Oct. 18,2014 vs. Purdue)
2009[143]  
InfoCision opening day2.JPG Summa Field at InfoCision Stadium Akron OH Akron MAC 30,000[138] 27,881[139] 2009  
Bright House exterior on opening day.jpg Bright House Networks Stadium Orlando FL UCF American 45,323[23] 48,453
(October 17, 2009 vs. Miami)[24]
2007[23] N/A
Stanford Stadium field 6.JPG Stanford Stadium Stanford CA Stanford Pac-12 50,000[136] 51,607[137]
(October 9, 2010 vs. USC)
2006[136] N/A
Rentschler Field UConn.jpg Rentschler Field East Hartford CT Connecticut American 40,000[116] 42,704
(9/21/13 vs. #15 Michigan)[117]
2003[118]
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For the 100th time, I can assure you there is nothing beyond light conversation regarding an OCS at USF.  The numbers simply do not add up.  USF football could go undefeated for the next five years and it doesn't mean a hill of beans regarding an OCS.  Put 50K in Ray Jay during each home game for the next five years (no matter the visiting team) and maybe, just maybe, then there would be more than casual conversation.

Before you beat me down as an opponent of an OCS, I'm not.  No matter where they play, conference or competition I'll own season tickets and attend games when able. 

Go Bulls!

how can you "assure" anything?  Are you in charge of USF athletics working for Judy?

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The Painted Man:

I'm sure you have inside knowledge. However, we can't assume that it's written in stone because unlike you, most of us haven't seen blueprints. I think we'd usually we'd hire someone like  populous to create such plans after the announcement.

 

Secondarily, if it's already in the plans... it would be pretty foolish to plan on waiting two full years... We need to strike while the iron is hot.

They are waiting on getting mosi out of there. An yes it insider knowledge.

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I asked someone who has an inlet into USF athletics several months ago about this very issue. he stated at the time that we didn't have the financial backing to build a stadium. Of course, 8 wins and a red hot USF team later, many things change. Now Harlan has something to sell to donors, to the fan base, etc. You know that ticket sales will be considerably stronger next year, and not just because FSU is coming to town (although it certainly helps. I'm not going to complain about 40k-50k season ticket sales even if they show up just for the one game, our success will keep others coming especially if we start 4-0 or 3-1). 

Harlan has to go around to the bigger donors first, and that's what will happen the next two years. Taggart needs to show another 8 win year at the very least next year, but the next goal should be to make the conference championship, and preferably host it at home. If Houston or Navy or Memphis is coming here, guess what? It's an 8th home game, and everyone knows Tampa loves a winner. 

The students have come on strong this season, so now it's up to the rest of the sections to start getting more sales. It won't be hard this year. There's excitement around the program. Our goal last year was to have 10k season ticket holders, and we got that, plus 6-8k from the student section and walkups for our actuals. I'm not sure where the other 8k came from, but that's money in the bank. 

Now Harlan will get the rest done. It's not hard as hard now that we have something to sell. 

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They are waiting on getting mosi out of there. An yes it insider knowledge.

If it's insider knowledge, I don't recommend the approach you've taken with shouting it from the rooftops. A good number of us have been privileged to learn of inside athletics information and have hinted at or stayed completely quiet. Repeatedly mentioning that you have the information will get you removed from future inside communications.

With that said, I appreciate the information! I'm hopeful that what you're saying becomes reality.

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