COLUMBIA, S.C. — The University of South Carolina is considering what it calls a "major" modernization of Williams-Brice Stadium, a project that along with other development could become in its words "the most exciting and comprehensive development project ever undertaken in the Midlands."
The university announcedTuesday it's issued what it calls a formal request for information, the first step in a process to see what potentially the project could be. The process includes looking at possible development partners and ways to generate private funding for improvements to Williams-Brice. The goal would be to expand the stadium for events other than football games.
The stadium last hosted a major non-football event in 2018, when Grammy-record-holder Beyoncé played a concert there.
"We believe this could be a game-changer for our university," USC Athletics Director Ray Tanner said. "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."
On a website set up to explain to fans the project, the school says, "We’re excited to announce a new journey that will establish a new vision that could revolutionize the fan and student-athlete experience. We know this journey will also revolutionize the city of Columbia, the State of South Carolina and college athletics as a whole."
The school isn't giving any ideas of what those improvements could be, but said it would not involving moving Williams-Brice Stadium. And the university once again shot down any rumor that the State Fairgrounds property would be involved, specifically stating that they are not looking to acquire that land.
Instead, the university is looking at developing more than 800 acres of land the school already owns which is adjacent to the Congaree River. These parcels of property are behind the Gamecock Village off Bluff Road and west of the Long Family Football Operations Center and includes some of the old state farmer's market land and a large track of landing extending roughly parallel to Bluff Road almost to Interstate 77.
The school has made a series of improvements to the nearly 90-year-old stadium over the last 15 years, including a pavilion as people enter the stadium, the Gamecock Village across from the stadium, a complete redo of the parking at the fairgrounds, a new scoreboard, and most recently installing and LED lights display.
The school points out the the goal is to find a business partnership that avoids transferring any of the cost to taxpayers or the public.
“We have a once in a generation opportunity to move forward on needed facility improvements through a partnership that doesn’t require public financing,” said Ed Walton, USC's Executive Vice-President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer. “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 more vibrant than ever.”
A school said a second phase of the project is the potential for continued private development of more than 17 acres adjacent to Colonial Life Arena, west of Park Street.
“The area along Greene Street leading to the Congaree River is red hot for development. We want to see what we can offer to encourage further opportunities built there around USC and Gamecock sports,” said Tanner.
The results of the request for information are supposed to be back to the school in early March. They said that data will then allow them to move forward on the project.