FSU athletics, boosters have ‘aggressive timeline’ for football ops building

Twelve of 14 schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference have dedicated football operations buildings. Miami and Florida State are the only two that don’t but that’s soon to change.

“We have an aggressive timeline,” Florida State athletics director Michael Alford told the Osceola. “We’re working with the president. We know it’s a priority with Chairman (Peter) Collins, President (Richard) McCullough and myself. We need to get this facility built.”

Florida’s dedicated football facility will open this summer, which means FSU will be one of just eight Power 5 schools not to have a dedicated football building, Alford said.

“I hate to put a timeline on it, but we’re on schedule to break ground in 10, 12 months to start digging,” Alford said.

The architecture firm Populus is in Tallahassee this week to meet with coach Mike Norvell, review plans and iron out final needs for the facility.

“They will sit down with Coach (Norvell) and see some final designs after we’ve gone through all the processes,” Alford said. “They’ll talk with the constituents, who are going to be in the facility and get their feedback. It’s on target.”

Alford said he is talking finances right now with various people about how to fund the facility. The Seminoles currently have about $50 million pledged to the project, which could cost $85 million or more to build.

“Fundraising is going extremely well,” Alford said. “We’re about to have another little push on that with some proposals that we have out there that are going to come in. We’re very satisfied.”

It is important to note the $50 million currently pledged is not cash in hand. Typically, a donor will pledge money to be paid over five or more years. Even with a conscientious commitment, occasionally bad things can happen in an individual’s business or personal life that result in non-payment or delayed payment of pledges. It is not uncommon with a capital campaign to have a payment rate as low as 80 percent.

“We’re looking at different financial models; what’s the best route to go?” Alford said. “So that’s the process we’re going through right now with several different people so we can make an informed decision on which route is the best way to finance this facility.”

Capital projects of this size are often bonded with the bonding company looking for income FSU can pledge to guarantee the loan, much like you had to show your income when applying for a mortgage loan.  

Virtually all of the athletic facilities built at FSU since the 1990s were built with bond financing and guaranteed by a variety of income streams, including season tickets, annual fund donation, skybox leases, royalties, etc.

The football operations building, which is expected to be 150,000 or more square feet, will have some income from leasable space that could be pledged to a loan.

“We’re trying to make sure that we have space that’s going to be needed and not wasted in there,” Alford said. “It’s going to have a revenue component. I don’t like to build facilities without a revenue component. We’re talking to some people about leasing a floor out that will be bringing revenue towards that building but also help us with our student-athletes.” 

Alford looks to his former employer, the Dallas Cowboys, for inspiration and to the Philadelphia Eagles’ Nova Center as an example.

“What the Eagles did with the Nova Center was rehab,” Alford said. “It could be rehab, it could be orthopedic, it could be some kind of facility that’s going to benefit campus and our student-athletes and the community.”

Florida State is also deep into the development of long overdue upgrades to the infrastructure of Doak Campbell Stadium to address accessibility and life safety in a structure sections of which are now 70 years old. While these infrastructure improvements will benefit the general public, Florida State has also been actively fundraising to build premium seating sections in the West side of the stadium.

Alford will meet with the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Feb. 8 to lay out the timeline for improvements to Doak and to seek permission to move forward.

“This is where we are at. Are we ready to take the next step to hire a sports architectural firm?” Alford explained of what his report will entail. “We have eight (of eight) Founder’s Suites committed and three of the four Founder’s Loge Boxes.”

Seminole Boosters has raised more than $30 million in pledges to date for the Doak Campbell Stadium premium seating portion of the stadium enhancements.

“People are receptive when we show them the stadium and what we are doing,” Alford said. “When we sit you down one by one and really show the comparisons out there, that’s where people are like, ‘OK, now I get it.’ ” 

While the two projects are independent of one another, Alford said it’s possible the two projects could be financed by one bond issue, where revenue generated by the premium seating section could guarantee the payments on the football operations building.

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