Shovels hit the dirt Thursday evening on the University of Miami’s Greentree Field, just as countless Miami Hurricane bodies will hit the indoor practice facility on that same site beginning with the 2018 football season.
Miami had its groundbreaking ceremony for the $34 million Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility, which will put the Hurricanes football program — and all other UM sports — on par with almost every program in the country that has an indoor complex to complement their outdoor fields.
“I’m so thankful to be a part of this,” football coach Mark Richt said to a crowd of about 300, which included current players Trent Harris, Kc McDermott, Chad Thomas and Shaq Quarterman, and former players such as NFL punt/kickoff return record-holder Devin Hester. “Thank you to everybody who gave. Thank you to everybody who is still considering a gift… God bless the Canes.”
Soffer’s son, billionaire real estate developer Jeffrey Soffer, 49, and his sisters Jackie Soffer, 51, and Brooke Soffer, 46, donated the $14 million lead gift that was the catalyst for bringing the project to fruition. Construction begins Monday.
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Carol Soffer, a devoted UM sports fan and donor for decades, joked that she “never thought’’ she’d “be so eager to hold a shovel… I don’t know of any school anywhere, in the whole world for that matter, that has a woman’s name on the outside of a building in an athletic department. As a woman, I’m very proud of that distinction.”
The ceremony, held under a giant white tent with decorative orange and green banners, included UM president Julio Frenk, athletic director Blake James, UM Board of Trustees chair Richard Fain and past chair Stuart Miller, and Coral Gables mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli.
James said the facility has raised $32 million in less than a year, including $1 million from Richt and his wife Katharyn and $250,000 from former linebacker Jon Beason amid a total of about $1.75 million from former players. Because the school is so close to the full amount projected to build the facility, James told the Miami Herald that a football ticket surcharge, something previously under consideration, is not in the works.
“Credit to Mark and Katharyn,” James said. “I think their stepping up right away with that $1 million gift made the conversations for myself and our development people… a little bit easier... Just so appreciative of the Soffer family for making this a reality — and all the other Hurricanes fans who allowed us to generate such a significant amount of money in such a short window.”
The 81,800-square-foot facility will have two artificial turf fields — one 80 yards long and another 40-yard field directly connecting to the Squillante Strength and Conditioning Center. It also will house a football operations center with a mezzanine level for the football coaches’ offices and meeting rooms.
Plenty of everyday folks and UM fans who are not big-money donors gave significantly to the effort, including $5,000 from alum and director of UM alumni programs Rick Remmert, and fellow alum and senior associate athletic director for development Jesse Marks.
“My wife, Caroline, and I met at UM,” Marks said. “And my parents met at UM. I owe a lot to this university and totally believe in everything Mark Richt is doing for the program.”
Turns out Marks’ wife works in the corporate offices for Turnberry Associates, the company the Soffer family owns.
“It’s like my worlds colliding,” Marks said.