Construction day for facility inches closer

At long last, it appears as though the proposed new athletics facility will be built.

This coming after the USF Board of Trustees approved the project during its Thursday meeting.

The approval marks the conclusion of nearly five years of discussion and planning for the new facility, which will likely be located on the north side of the Sun Dome. The facility will add much needed offices, training and locker-room space to the Athletics Department.

Department offices, now spread throughout several buildings, will be housed jointly in the new facility.

Carl Carlucci, vice president for Budgets, Human Resources and Information Technologies, said much of the delay in beginning the project was due to funding issues.

?There?s been a project for awhile. We?ve never been able to move forward because of money,? Carlucci said. ?It?s not an academic building, so there is no state funding. The university has to raise the money (on its own).?

Typical of the money issues the project has faced during the years is a 1999 incident. Under former athletics director Paul Griffin, nearly $1 million earmarked for the new athletic facility was transferred to be used for parking lot construction. Griffin said at the time the lost money was not urgently needed.

Carlucci said, with a lack of state funds, the university will now be forced to finance the project.

?We have to borrow money, and this would be a bond issue,? he said. ?We?re hoping once we get started, private donors (will step forward).?

Carlucci said an exact cost estimate for the project will not be known until a building firm is hired. He said the current rough estimate puts the cost at $15 million, up from $7 million at the time of the 1999 money transfer.

It appears the USF football program will benefit most from the completion of the new structure. The program has operated since its inception out of a series of small trailers behind the baseball complex. At issue have also been the undersized Sun Dome weight rooms and locker rooms used by the team.

Carlucci said the current proposal will solve these problems with the addition of about 110,000 square feet of space. He said there is, however, no current design for the structure.

?At this point, it is a program,? he said.

?You have a program, and then (later) a design.?

Steve Gift, director for Facilities Planning, said the process of selecting architects and builders for the project is already underway.

?We hope to have the project done to contract this summer,? Gift said.

Gift said, at some point during the summer, there will be a ceremonial groundbreaking on the project. Once the contract on the project is decided, he said it will take about 18 months until the building?s official opening.

Gift said with the Board of Trustees decision, the project will move forward quickly.

?It?ll be a fast-track process,? he said.

Deputy Athletics Director Corey Johnson said the new facility has been a concern since he was hired by USF eight months ago.

He said plans for the project have changed about 42 times.

?I?ve been working on (the facility) since I got here,? Johnson said. ?It?s been an effort for all facets of the university: plant operations, athletics, the president?s office. It?s a total campus effort.?

Johnson said the importance of the new facility lies in several areas. He said it provides the university with a state-of-the-art facility that serves as both a recruitment and retention tool.

?It gives us a facility in which to adequately operate the department of athletics,? Johnson said.

?It becomes a hub for everything we need to do.?

  • Contact Rob Brannonat