FAU stadium committee quickly finds questions

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The committee charged with deciding whether Florida Atlantic University will get a football complex met for the first time Monday with early concerns about financing and questions about how a private company will manage a public university's stadium.

The nine-member committee, made up of university officials, one Boca Raton City Council member, FAU's student government president and one FAU alumnus, promised to expedite the review process and meet twice more this month so they can fulfill an early 2006 deadline for a recommendation

FAU has been eyeing the Carrier Dome at New York's Syracuse University as a model for what officials would like to see built on a northwest portion of the campus bordering the airport.

The three proposals received in September include a 40,000-seat domed stadium, dormitory space for up to 2,500 students, retail shops, a hotel and, in one proposal, a $130 million, 100,000-square-foot specialized cancer treatment center.

The committee is being advised by three attorneys and two investment consultants, the latter of which recommended doing a financial evaluation of the three plans before the group meets again Oct. 27. The three developers Global Development Partners of Washington D.C., Tampa-based Innovation Development Partners, and KUD International, with offices in Santa Monica, Calif., will be asked to give presentations to the committee Oct. 31. The meetings are open to the public.

"We need to prepare a study that says, 'Here are the knowns, unknowns and the contingencies in these proposals,' " said Mary Williams, senior vice president for the investment banking firm First Southwest Co., who is advising the committee. "There are certain assumptions in each proposal that we need input from the university about."

For example, the proposal from Global Development Partners calls for a cancer treatment center that would become "one of only a handful of such centers worldwide," and the addition of a museum dedicated to the Boca Raton Army Airfield. The land where FAU's main campus is now located was once the airfield.

Global Development Partners also believe there is a demand for a hotel and conference space at FAU that can be attached to the domed stadium.

"We think there may not be enough room for that," said FAU Athletic Director Craig Angelos, about the cancer center and hotel.

Developers would pay to build the stadium, then collect profits from ticket sales, parking fees and student housing for up to 30 years. The stadium would then revert back to the university.

One proposal, by Innovation Development Partners, estimates the stadium will cost about $117 million to build. By year 10, the group estimates the stadium will bring in $14.2 million a year from tickets, concessions, advertising and merchandise. By year 30, that estimate grows to $37.8 million.

"This will turn on whether the numbers make sense for the university," said Angelos, who is chairman of the committee. "The bottom line is whether it will be financially feasible."