Hurricanes football coach Mark Richt on Thursday reminisced about his University of Miami playing days, when he and his teammates would practice through rain storms, lightning included.
“In my day we just kept going,’’ he said. “We felt for the guy who was filming [practice] in the filming tower, like, ‘Could we at least let him come down?’’’
On Thursday, the sun was blazing, the sky was baby blue, the lush, green palm trees provided some made-for-Miami — or in this case, Coral Gables — scenery from inside the cavernous, partially constructed Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility.
That’s right. from inside.
After practice, Richt, Hurricanes senior associate athletic director Jesse Marks and project superintendent Carlos Padron gave the media a tour of the 83,000-square-foot facility that now has a roof and is expected to be completed by fall camp in August.
“The whole world kept moving and we kind of stood still for a second,’’ Richt, green-and-orange-striped hard hat atop his dome, said of UM, one of the last major programs in the nation not to have an indoor practice facility. “Now we’re cranking up again and everybody knows it. … It’s going to be a really fun place …’’
Marks said $33.6 million toward the initial $34 million had been raised as of Thursday morning, and that fundraising will continue. “There are going to continue to be needs to make this building the best it can possible be in Division I football.’’
The air-conditioned facility will have two fields, one 80 yards long and the other 40 yards, the smaller field underneath the mezzanine where Richt’s office will be.
Padron, of Lemartec, said he talks daily to “the big man,’’ Richt, naturally, to “keep him up to date.’’
Padron instructed the media to look up.
“We have about 56 feet of clearance here so punting and kicking here shouldn’t be a problem at all,’’ he said.
“I just want to get it done to see how nice it is when it’s completed,’’ Padron added, bragging that “this is the first pre-engineered metal building in the city of Coral Gables.’’
“I’ve been a UM fan my whole life,’’ he gushed.
The other part of the project, the nearly 30,000-square-foot football operation complex, Marks explained, is self enclosed and will have “all new football offices, team meeting rooms, coaches’ offices, all new recruiting areas’’ and will be attached to the Hecht Athletic Center.
“Coach Richt’s office will overlook the inside of the facility and [he’ll have] a patio and balcony overlooking the [outside] practice fields,’’ Marks said.
“Right now you’re standing in one of the garage doors that the team is going to be able to enter and exit the building from. So, if there is inclement weather, a lightning storm, the horns sound on campus [and] we just open these doors and the team goes right in.’’
And players won’t even have to change their cleats.
“Everything that touches our program is going to be redone,’’ Richt said. “Functionally, it’s going to be awesome in so many areas and the beauty of it is going to be great. And just the message it sends: We’re 100-percent first class in everything we do here. We can develop our players as well as anybody in America.’’
Richt was asked if he wants the Canes to stay outside as much as possible.
“Yeah, a day like today we’ll be outside,’’ he said. “But there will be moments we might even flex in there and then come out and practice. Or, say we’re in camp and it’s 95 [degrees] and 95-[percent] humidity every day for five days in a row. They’re depleting their electrolytes, they’re getting drained completely, they are getting washed out. Day four or five maybe we go inside and we just help them stay fresh.
“Because a fatigued group of guys can also pull muscles. They can get injured.’’
Added the coach: “Let’s say it’s a day that rained horribly and it stopped in time to practice. If it’s still wet and sloppy and we get on it and practice full speed we may get injuries and we may just tear the turf up.
“So, hey, let’s just save our grass and make sure nobody pulls a muscle slipping on a route or something like that.”