Mark Richt’s emotive post Thursday afternoon on Twitter was not because a star football player had committed to one of his future recruiting classes.
This was even more exciting to the University of Miami coach who has seen his long-awaited dream accelerate toward fruition.
“It’s official!’’ Richt tweeted. “Ground-breaking scheduled May 4. Thank U to all IPF donors but still remain $2.5M from $34M goal.’’
Thus, the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility will begin construction in May, thanks to the more than $31 million that has been raised toward the project.
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Jeffrey Soffer, a prominent South Florida real estate developer and philanthropist, and his siblings made a $14 million commitment to the project in honor of their mother Carol, a longtime UM football fan and athletics donor.
The entire project will exceed 100,000 square feet and include two turf fields that combine for 81,000-square feet (one field will be 80 yards long and the other will be 40 yards long and will directly connect to the Squillante Strength and Conditioning Center). The indoor facility will be located on the current football practice area and will be connected to the Hecht Athletic Center and the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence.
It will include a football operations center with a mezzanine level that houses the football coaches’ offices and meeting rooms.
Other sports will have access to the facility as well.
Richt, a former UM quarterback and one of the main reasons the fundraising soared, pledged $1 million toward the project. Sixty former players have contributed $1.65 million, including the $250,000 by former linebacker Jon Beason, senior associate athletic director Jesse Marks told the Miami Herald on Thursday.
UM athletic director Blake James’ goal has been to have the facility completed by August 2018. James told the Miami Herald that the school would not rule out a football ticket surcharge to help pay for it if needed.
“Right now, our football program is facing a glaring need,’’ Richt wrote in a letter published on HurricanesFootballFacility.com. “We are the only university in the ACC without an Indoor Practice Facility or one under construction, and it is affecting our practice time, preparation, and recruiting success…Florida is the lightning capital of the United States…On average, we lose or must reschedule 22 practice sessions every year due to weather-related issues…
“With your support, we will be prepared for every opponent. We will play with tremendous effort. We will compete at the highest level.
“We will Build Champions…and we will WIN.’’