When will FGCU field a football team? The $100 million question after feasibility study

Florida Gulf Coast University may have to punt the idea of starting a football program anytime soon, after the release of a preliminary feasibility study to start the sport at the 13-year-old school.

It will cost, at minimum, around $100 million to build a stadium and field a team, according to documents obtained by the Daily News.

And even if the university does decide to move toward the gridiron, FGCU’s football program -- and the rest of its athletics programs -- likely would not be at FGCU.

FGCU commissioned Carr Sports Associates and Populous to prepare a feasibility studies and the preliminary reports show the extreme costs of fielding a football team,

particularly one that would be housed off campus, which the initial reports recommend.

JE Dunn Construction’s estimate to Populous (which FGCU also is utilizing) for a standard and small 15,000-seat stadium is in the $51.1-56.5 million range for the facility. Support costs would be another $32.4-35.8 million. And those costs are expected to increase by 12 percent by 2015 and they do not include land purchase.

FGCU President Wilson Bradshaw told an economic round table sponsored by The Fort Myers News-Press on Dec. 2 that the preliminary numbers “are quite sobering.”

“For those who think we can make money, well, we can’t. Bradshaw told the group and retrieved from a News-Press video. “But I think it’s important for all of us to know what those numbers are because everywhere I go, I give a speech, a very cogent speech, about all the good things we’re doing at the university ... the second question is,

‘Well, when are you going to have football?’

“So we are being very intentional with that study.”

The complete feasibility study will be presented to the Board of Trustees on Jan. 18. Until then, FGCU Athletic Director Ken Kavanagh is declining comment.

“I’ve told people all along that until this issue is done with the Board of Trustees making whatever comments they’re going to make in January at the Board of Trustees meeting with the final product ... this is basically being done, and rightfully so, for the Trustees to get their arms around (this) and work with the president and let us know what they think we need to do,” Kavanagh said.

Division I football likely would be way out of FGCU’s league even if it decides to construct a program. It requires at least 16 sports (FGCU has 14) and a minimum of 200 athletics scholarships, a minimum of 76.5 football scholarships over a rolling, two-year period and a minimum annual average

attendance of 15,000 once every two years.

Division I-AA (FCS) football schools must have 14 sports and award a minimum of 50 percent total grants allowed cumulatively in those sports.

There are no minimal scholarship requirements but the

maximum for football is 63 and there are no minimal standards for attendance.

“A critical factor in achieving the true value of sponsoring football is the ability to gain membership in an FCS conference with peer institutions,” the Carr Sports Associates report stated. “As a large state university, FGCU is highly unlikely to receive an invitation to join the exclusively private school member Pioneer League, the nation’s only non-scholarship FCS conference outside the Ivy Group.

“Therefore, the appropriate football model for FGCU is to seek membership in an FCS conference that award(s) football scholarships.”

Because FGCU is on just 760 acres “which is almost half jurisdictional wetland,” the recommendation is for FGCU to construct a football facility off campus.

The Populous report agreed, but took it a big step further.

“In addition to the potential requirement for football facilities, all FGCU athletic facilities will need to expand,” it stated. “Due to constraints by

academic and residential buildings, plus unbuildable

wetlands and conservation areas, the current location of the athletic facilities is confined and lacks the necessary space for expansion to accommodate the continued growth by the intercollegiate athletic program.

“Therefore, while studying the possibility of building facilities for football, it is the recommendation of this study that FGCU consider establishing an entirely new athletic campus. The long term strategy of planning for the eventual relocation of the existing athletic facilities while studying the possibility of new football facilities is appropriate. It will result in an athletics campus that brings all intercollegiate athletic programs together,

increasing efficiencies in spaces and creating a more coherent athletic campus.”

The Populous football recommendation was to begin with a 15,000-seat stadium “with the ability to expand to 30,000 seats in the future.”

“We have a very high-powered group of consultants led by the former athletic director at the University of Florida (Bill Carr),” Bradshaw said. “So that brings a lot of credibility to the study we have going.”

Connect with Dana Caldwell at www.naplesnews.com/staff/Dana_Caldwell

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