The University of South Carolina can now start work on a $50 million football operations facility after clearing a final regulatory hurdle Monday.
The state’s highest financial panel, the Fiscal Accountability Authority, gave the go-ahead for a new 105,000 square-foot building that will eventually house a practice facility, players lounge and offices,. However, Gov. Nikki Haley expressed concern over the amount USC is borrowing through bonds to pay for construction, despite a record $113 million in revenue for the athletics department last fiscal year. The school’s athletics department spent $107 million in that same span.
“You’re bringing in all this revenue to the point that news outlets are talking about being number 17 in the country (in terms of athletics revenue),” the governor asked the university’s representative Rick Kelly. “It’s showing that your revenues are strong. But, yet, when it comes to a deal like this… I’m just asking where all of that revenue is going?”
Kelly answered that USC has raised $6 million in donations for the project so far and hopes to eventually raise $13 million. Monday’s vote by the board allowed USC to raise up to $46 million through bonds. The governor eventually backed the proposal, which passed unanimously.
Previously, the school agreed to lower the athletics fees it charges in-state students as a condition for getting approval from the state Commission on Higher Education. Full-time students pay the $86 fee each semester when they enroll at USC and help cover free admission at sporting events such as football and basketball. USC officials say the decrease would be roughly $35 each semester for in-state students. However, USC finance representative Rick Kelly said the school plans to increase the fee charged to out-of-state students to make up the difference.
USC hopes to open the facility by late 2018.