Two years before its inaugural season, University of West Florida football’s first major scrimmage was held Friday at Pensacola City Hall. The Argonauts are working to create a temporary home downtown.
Meeting in special session, the Community Maritime Park Associates Board went over a proposed agreement for the team to play at Bayfront Stadium beginning in 2016. The two-year deal – plus three, one-year renewals if desired – would pay the city $5,000 per game.
Collier Merrill is a past president of both the CMPA Board and the UWF Trustees. He said eventually, there will be a football stadium on campus.
“We started talking a couple of years ago that it would be nice, and told them we put in this multi-use stadium,” said Merrill. “We designed that stadium, as you all know, that we could play football in there.”
On a 3-1 vote, the proposal was submitted to the full CMPA board after three amendments were approved. First, the cut for CMPA from the games was increased from 20 to 25%. Northwest Florida Professional Baseball – the company that runs the Pensacola Blue Wahoos -- needs to approve the hike, and there’s optimism that it will be resolved soon.
UWF also agreed to a suggestion by CMPA Chairman Jim Reeves to take over the purchase of the goalposts – at a cost of $30,000 – along with the catch nets and play clocks which are required by the NCAA.
“We have goalposts that don’t meet NCAA regulations,” Reeves said. “My suggestion was that the university buy the goalposts, and spread (the cost) over five years.”
And language was changed to reflect the $1 ticket surcharge is for every ticket sold on game day, rather than for each home game.
For Saturday games, UWF would have control of the park — with the option to allow other events — from 8:00 a.m. until midnight. If the game’s on a Thursday, the hours would be noon to midnight.
UWF President Judy Bense says UWF football will be a celebratory event, and will join university and community to form what she calls the best economic partnership in the school’s nearly half-century history.
Bense also told the CMPA Board that if there’s a snag with the lease to use Bayfront Stadium, UWF has other options to explore.
“We are building a competition field, we’re breaking ground on that in December,” Bense said. “We’re going to have a nice athletic facility and a practice field. All I have to do is to build bleachers and we can play on our field, on our campus. But I don’t want to. We want to come and play right across the street (from City Hall).”
The university would have control of game day revenue generators, such as parking, merchandise, and advertising. The CMPA would agree to pay all utility costs for the games. The full CMPA Board is scheduled to meet in regular session on August 27. But Chairman Jim Reeves says if necessary, he will call another special meeting before then.