FAU gets approval for on-campus stadium

Florida Atlantic had its plans for an on-campus stadium approved Thursday, and the school hopes to begin play there next season.

The Florida Board of Governors unanimously approved the plans for the 30,000-seat stadium to be built at the Boca Raton, Fla., school. The university still needs to close a loan of $45 million to cover most of the costs of the $70 million stadium. About $20 million came from non-academic university reserves.

The stadium is to feature 20 luxury suites -- with ocean views -- along with 1,000 club seats. Construction is expected to begin in October and is anticipated to be finished next fall, in time for the start of the season.

FAU has played in various places while coach Howard Schnellenberger worked hard to get an on-campus stadium built since the program kicked off its first season 10 years ago. FAU once had a home at Sun Life Stadium, where the Dolphins, Marlins and Hurricanes play. The Owls currently play at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, a former soccer stadium that also hosts high school football games.

The FAU stadium site is part of a larger village on campus that will feature dorms, restaurants and shops.

This is a good step for FAU, but it remains to be seen whether an on-campus stadium can elevate the program. Attendance ranked No. 110 last season, with an average of 15,326 fans. FAU is still primarily a commuter school, but getting an on-campus stadium, along with the other amenities being built, could begin to change that image.

FAU has played in two bowl games in its short football history, winning both.

“The stadium will provide a wonderful opportunity for us to come together as a community, building traditions and enhancing the university experience,” Schnellenberger said. “The FAU Owls' two-time bowl-winning football team will truly be playing their games before a ‘home’ crowd. It’s an amazing time for the university.”