The Buzz

November 22, 2013

STATE HOUSE: USC withdraws $125 million budget request for coliseum renovation

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to thebuzz@thestate.com.

The University of South Carolina withdrew a $125 million state budget request to renovate the Carolina Coliseum on Friday even though the school did not intend to ask for the money next year.

USC trustees and legislators were not aware of the budget request until the news was reported by The State last week.

University Chief Financial Officer Ed Walton told school trustees on Friday that the money was included in a 2014-15 budget request to Gov. Nikki Haley's office to alert lawmakers about the project that would transform the former 12,000-seat home of the Gamecock basketball teams into a student-services hub with classrooms.

The $125 million was an estimate from Walton based on a previous study.

"This was nothing more than a faithful bureaucrat trying to put something together," he told trustees. Walton said after the meeting that including the request was his mistake.

The school is working to have a feasibility study done. USC does not have a firm date for making a budget request.

Trustee Charles Williams, an Orangeburg attorney, questioned why the school would spend $125 million to renovate the 45-year-old arena on Assembly Street when the money could be used on a new building.

"I'm not sure what the vision is," Williams said to USC President Harris Pastides.

Pastides said he wants to look at the school's needs after five years of growing enrollment and expenditures on new dorms and academic buildings before moving forward.

"We are a renewed university," he told trustees.

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