FAU gets final approval for new stadium

BY foxsports • September 16, 2010

On Day 1 in Florida Atlantic football history, Howard Schnellenberger vowed there would eventually be an on-campus stadium for the Owls to call home.

On Day 4,522, his plan became reality.

The state's Board of Governors unanimously approved FAU's plan to build a 30,000-seat football stadium at a cost of $69.8 million on Thursday, part of the university's ''Innovation Village'' project that has been in the works for years. Construction at FAU's campus in Boca Raton, Fla. will begin next month, and the stadium should open sometime during the 2011 football season.

''It's something special,'' Schnellenberger said. ''The stadium was the missing link, the missing piece of the puzzle, for the development of a first-class college football team. The renderings show, it's one of the most beautiful stadiums I've ever seen and it'll fit into the landscape exquisitely. You'll be able to see the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal Waterway from there.''

Thursday's vote was the final hurdle. The Board of Governors, a panel overseeing Florida's 11 public universities, voted to approve a $44.585 million financing plan. Another $20.3 million for the project will be paid in cash from various university reserves, and the final $4.9 million from other projects.

''There were many times where we thought we had some momentum and then something would fall through,'' FAU athletic director Craig Angelos said. ''There was a lot of that along the way. ... But we tried to keep hope alive, kept saying 'We're getting closer, we're getting closer,' never really knowing if we would get all the way to the end.''

Schnellenberger - who coached Miami to its first national championship in 1983 and played a large role in the resurgence of Louisville's program - has been the leader of FAU's football program from its birth, taking the Owls to the Division I-AA semifinals, and since making the jump to the major college level, has gone 2-0 in bowl games at the school.

The stadium, though, may be the biggest part of his FAU legacy.

''He was a strong driver from the beginning,'' Angelos said. ''The thing that's most impressive about Howard is he's a great visionary. He charts a vision and people get on board and find a way to make it happen.''

Angelos and Schnellenberger both say they would like to find a way for FAU to bring in a bigger-name school, possibly from the state of Florida, for the first game in the new stadium. Angelos expects to be told Oct. 3 what the opening date for 2011 will be, based on construction plans.

''It may be that it just has to come as the schedule determines,'' Schnellenberger said. ''I think we'll sell out regardless of who it is.''

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