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OPINION: USF should weigh costs of building an on-campus stadium

USF is worried about getting an on-campus stadium built, when it should be worried about increasing the low game attendance. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/USF

Both Interim President Rhea Law and Board of Trustee (BOT) Chair Will Weatherford have goals for an on-campus stadium. While an exciting thought, an on-campus stadium is an irresponsible goal to set right now.

The money required to build such an overly ambitious stadium isn’t reasonable given the average attendance at USF football games. This project should be put on the backburner for when attendance increases.

USF’s football attendance was 19,589 per game in 2019, according to turnstile counts provided by Associate Athletics Director Brian Siegrist. USF’s turnout is overshadowed by other colleges, including the Bulls’ biggest rival.

UCF averaged 43,788 attendees per game in 2019, according to UCF Athletics. That number, however, is the announced turnout, not the turnstile figures, which are more accurate. USF’s announced turnout that year was 32,956 per game.

This season, though only partially accounted for, isn’t looking much more promising, with an average of 24,879 attendees per game, according to Siegrist.

Building an on-campus stadium isn’t cheap, as reflected by the estimates taken from the conceptual planning study released Aug. 2, 2017. This study originally projected the stadium to cost $200 million, but estimates for 2022 have increased it.

The new expected cost is roughly $245 million, an insane amount of money for a college stadium compared with UCF’s stadium. Its on-campus stadium, the Bounce House, was built in 2007 for approximately $55 million.

If a college with double our turnout built a stadium at a quarter of the price, maybe USF is planning too extravagantly.

Some attribute the measly attendance to inaccessibility, furthering the argument for an on-campus stadium. The problem with this take is that students have free access to the Bull Runner, which takes students to and from the stadium on game days.

Free access includes visitors that board the bus with a student, according to the USF Transportation Information and Guidelines. This extends to home games at Raymond James Stadium, according to USF’s Administrative Services.

Lack of accessibility isn’t the issue, lack of school spirit is. Until football games become more popular in attendance, focusing on an on-campus stadium is foolish. Other issues should be prioritized by Law and the BOT.

The idea of an on-campus stadium sounds appealing to students when the reality is, no one will use it enough to make it monetarily worthwhile.