The University of South Florida board of trustees approved a $340 million budget Tuesday to build a 35,000-seat on-campus football stadium.
The board authorized $200 million in debt spending to fund the majority of the stadium, projected to open for the 2026 season. The rest of the money is expected to come through donations and other university funds. According to The Tampa Bay Times, the cost is not expected to be finalized until next year. Until that is approved, the school can change its mind on the project without penalty.
"People have dreamed about this for a long time, so this is definitely a historic, monumental day for USF athletics and the university as a whole, because not only does it show the right step and evolution for our football program but it's also that way for the university," USF AD Michael Kelly told ESPN on Tuesday.
USF, which currently plays its home games at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been lobbying for an on-campus stadium for decades and has fallen behind with its on-campus facilities in recent years, but opened a new $22 million indoor performance facility this past January.
The new stadium is slated to be built just north of there. With the improved facilities, and recent designation as an Association of American Universities member, USF is hoping to position itself in a much better spot in the next round of realignment.
"I do think the ever-changing realignment game certainly helped raise awareness and raise urgency in our leadership," Kelly said. "They see the benefits of it. I do believe it was always going to happen, but it certainly didn't hurt in relation to the time was now."
Kelly said that although it's hard to predict the future of conference realignment, he continually has his eye looking ahead to help position USF for any opportunity that might arise.
"It's always evolved for as long as I've been alive," Kelly added. "All you can really focus on is what can you do to position yourself the best you possibly can. We built an IPF, we got a commitment to an operations building, we're going to have an on-campus stadium. To go AAU, to be in the 11th-largest media market and a very attractive place to live -- there's a lot of attractive features that presidents and commissioners you would think would find highly attractive as they look to the future."