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VIDEO: University of South Carolina Exploring Possible Billion-Dollar Stadium Upgrades

Thu February 09, 2023 - Southeast Edition
Greenville News & USC Athletics



The University of South Carolina (USC) athletics department announced Feb. 7 that it has issued a formal Request for Information (RFI) of a potential billion-dollar modernization effort at and around Williams-Brice Stadium, home of the Gamecocks' football team.

The Greenville News reported there are no formal plans, timelines or budgets set for the project, but the RFI allows the university to listen to ideas from developers for more than 800 acres of undeveloped property owned by USC. Senior university officials told the newspaper that they expect most of the project's funding to come from private contributions.

USC has no plans to acquire new land to develop the project, including the State Fairgrounds, according to school officials. The work will not move the stadium from its current location, nor will construction at Williams-Brice have an impact on the Gamecocks' home football schedule.

South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner said one of the primary goals of the project is to expand premium offerings inside the stadium. The Gamecocks have the second-fewest number of luxury suites among Southeastern Conference (SEC) stadiums, and the premium seating currently has more than 100 fans on the waiting list.

"It's certainly evident that people want premium experiences," Tanner told the News. "They want to have good parking. They want to have great food. They want to have luxury boxes if that suits them, or great seating, or chair backs, or whatever the case may be."

Senior USC officials also said improvements inside Williams-Brice will likely include upgrades to concessions, bathrooms and the concourses. Tanner noted the goal of the stadium modernization is to improve all levels of the fan experience while keeping tickets affordable for the average fan.

"We're not turning the entire stadium into premium seating," he emphasized. "We may have an opportunity to enhance the general seating, so this does not exclude them. We will include them as well when we move through the process of any type of phases that we go through and changes that we can make."

USC noted that a second phase of the project may have the potential for continued private development of more than 17 acres next to Colonial Life Arena, west of Park Street.

"We believe this [project] could be a game changer for our university," Tanner continued. "These projects are envisioned to create a fan experience second-to-none in college athletics. We are also looking at expanding the variety of events and opportunities these enhancements can bring, which will positively impact the local community."

USC's Plans to Develop Floodplains May Prove Tricky

The property being considered for development outside Williams-Brice Stadium, however, includes just under 850 acres of floodplains along the Congaree River.

In 2015, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down a proposed development project called Green Diamond on 547 acres of the floodplain. The court ruled that the development violated federal construction restrictions on floodplains, and the land was inundated during the historic 2015 flood. The developer at that time ended up selling the land to USC in 2020.

Responses to the RFI are due to the university by March 7, and Tanner said the university hopes to break ground within the next 12 to 15 months.

Ed Walton, USC's executive vice president for administration, and CEO, commented, "We have a once in a generation opportunity to move forward on needed facility improvements through a partnership that doesn't require public financing. We intend to develop a project and select a partner who has a strong track record of creating commercial projects that benefit the entire community through job creation and new businesses that will make Columbia and the Midlands [of South Carolina] more vibrant than ever."




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