FAU finds possible source of up-front cash for $62 million football stadium

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Monday, July 20, 2009

A football stadium for Florida Atlantic University is one step closer to kick off under a development proposal with the Boca Raton firm Crocker Partners.

The plan, which will be discussed Wednesday by FAU trustees, begins with the construction of a $69 million, 1,226-bed residence hall that is part of the school's "Innovation Village."

The village includes a proposal for a long-sought 30,000-seat football stadium as well as retail space that so far FAU has been unable to finance.

While some details for the new residence hall must still be hammered out, construction would be paid for with the sale of tax exempt bonds or taxable Build America Bonds through an independent direct support organization of the university. Most of the proceeds from the bond sale would go to Crocker Partners to finance the residence hall construction.

An estimated payment of $12 million would be made to FAU up front from the bond sale proceeds. That money would then be used to help pay for the development of other facilities within Innovation Village.

Crocker Partners would operate, maintain, and collect a portion of the proceeds from rent and fees of the new residence hall as well as FAU's current residence halls.

Crocker Partners is responsible for many well known Palm Beach County developments, including Mizner Park in Boca Raton and the new 18-story CityPlace Tower in West Palm Beach.

No one from Crocker Partners returned calls for comment.

"The $12 million as well as any additional revenues can be applied to any component of Innovation Village, including the stadium," said FAU General Counsel David Kian, who is overseeing the plan. "It will provide a very important infusion of up-front cash that can be applied to the stadium's own financing plan."

Kian said the plan giving Crocker management rights to FAU's residence halls will include termination provisions.

The FAU Board of Trustees has said no public money can be used to pay for the estimated $62 million football stadium, leaving school officials scrambling in the current economy for private fund-raising dollars.

The Crocker deal is an alternative that will provide the initial capital needed to go to the bond market.

As originally proposed, concession and novelty item sales, parking fees, ticket sales and leasing of premium seats would help the stadium pay for itself over the life of a 30-year bond. Private fund-raising dollars would also be necessary, consultants warned in 2007 when trustees gave the go-ahead to pursue financing for the stadium.

"As we are presenting information to banks, we are going to need hard evidence of community support," said FAU's Vice President for Finance Ken Jessell at the time. "I'm speaking from the heart: We need the corporate and business support, the support of alumni, of students, faculty, staff; we are going to need the support of this community. If we don't get that, then this will not happen."

With the funding plan for the stadium still in its very early stages, the promised fall 2010 opening date isn't likely.

According to Wednesday's proposal, the residence hall won't be ready until August 2011, and that's if construction begins between this November and February 2010.

A second residence hall, also built by Crocker, will be constructed at a later date as needs merit. Both are expected to market exclusively to upper-division undergraduates and professional students.