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18th of November 2018

Sport



USA takes next step on stadium, authorizing bid process

The University of South Alabama will move forward on development of an on-campus football stadium to be ready for the 2020 season, following a trustee vote on Thursday.

The executive committee of the USA board of trustees authorized President Tony Waldrop to open the bidding process on Phase II work on the stadium. That includes "the shell of the press tower, the shell of the operations building, and the lower-bowl cast-in-place concrete for seating." Phase I, already under way, consists of site preparation.

The vote leaves some significant questions unanswered. While it authorizes Waldrop to begin taking bids, no date has been set for when those bids will be opened and a contract awarded. Whether that happens and when will depend on the fundraising side of the equation.

"We will not have the ability to award the bid until we go back to the board again," USA Athletic Director Joel Erdmann said after the vote.

The move came a little over three weeks after the Mobile City Council rejected a proposal for the city to commit $10 million to help with debt service on the estimated $73 million project. After that setback, USA launched a "Get On Campus" fundraising campaign to build support for the project.

Erdmann said early response to that campaign had been encouraging, both in terms of grassroots-level supporters and in interest from potential major donors.

The resolution approved Thursday says that "the funding for the stadium, and resulting debt service on bonded indebtedness incurred to construct the stadium, will come from a combination of the athletics department, auxiliary enterprises, and private funding" and that "the University has further committed that no funding for the stadium, and resulting debt service on bonded indebtedness incurred to construct the stadium, will be derived from tuition, fees or other levies placed on students."

Speaking to the executive committee on Thursday, USA President Tony Waldrop said that time was pressing: If the University wants to meet its desired 2020 opening timetable, it needs to start seeking bids now, he said.

However, Waldrop said after the vote that the university had some breathing room before it had to award a contract. "We've got plenty of time right now in terms of the fundraising," he said.

The resolution approved Thursday says that the university "is actively seeking private partners in the funding of the stadium." It also says "It is understood that prior to any bid award, the results of the bids will be presented to the full Board of Trustees for approval in a duly called meeting along with the current stadium funding plan."

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