Contractor Barton Malow and Populous Architects have been selected to design and build the first on-campus football stadium for the 46,000-plus-student University of South Florida. 

The university announced the selection of Barton Malow and Populous for the design-build project Sept. 6, saying it plans to start playing football games in the new stadium—set for a portion on the east of its Tampa campus dubbed Sycamore Fields—at the start of the 2026 season. 

“The impact of the University of South Florida’s on-campus stadium will be transformational in ways that extend beyond football,” said USF President Rhea Law in a March announcement of the selected location.

The Sept. 6 selection of Barton Malow and Populous, made by co-chairs of the university’s stadium planning committee, is still subject to Board of Trustee approval in coming weeks, according to the announcement. University leaders will now work to finalize negotiations with the firms, aiming to come back to the board of trustees in October for approval, it says. That approval will kick off an 18-month design phase set to offer opportunities for input from students, faculty, staff, alumni and more. 

The USF Bulls football team currently plays its home games at Raymond James stadium in Tampa, the home of the National Football League's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

“The selected partner will play a critical role in helping us develop a more complete understanding of the scope of the project, including many of the details and design features that we know Bulls fans eagerly anticipate,” said USF Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly in the Sept. 6 release. 

A 2017 feasibility study set tentative plans for a 40,000-seat stadium with the potential to expand to 50,000, and set a construction cost at just under $247 million if construction were to start in 2022. 

Kansas City-based Populous is ranked 107 on ENR’s Top 500 Design Firms rankings. Barton Malow, of Southfield, Mich., is ranked 30 on ENR’s Top 400 Contractors

According to USF, the two companies have worked on 85 college stadiums and collaborated together on more than 40 sport venues over 25 years, including the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park and the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium. 

The March announcement says Sycamore Fields, currently used for intramural sports, sits near the university’s operations facility and new Indoor Performance Facility, close to student housing, parking and with multiple options for tailgating space. 

“Sycamore Fields is not only the stadium location that presents the most advantages, but it is without doubt the most historically fitting,” Kelly said in the March release. “Our football program was literally born on those fields a quarter century ago, and they served as our primary practice and development area for over a decade.”

In September 2021, Board of Trustees Chair Will Weatherford announced the goal of an on-campus stadium during the groundbreaking of the school's Indoor Performance Facility. Approved by the board two months later, the planning committee was formed in December, and by March, Sycamore Fields was recommended as the site. 

Two $5-million gifts are speeding the project along, first from longtime USF supporters Frank and Carol Morsani, and a second matching gift from Jeff and Penny Vinik. 

Jeff Vinik is owner of the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team and development company Strategic Property Partners, which in a joint venture with the Bill Gates-owned Cascade Investment private capital fund, is behind the transformative Water Street Tampa project, a $3.5-billion revitalization along the city’s waterfront.