The dream was already a reality this past August.
But late Thursday afternoon, the University of Miami celebrated the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility with a dedication ceremony that drew more than 400 community and university leaders, coaches and athletes, and, of course, lead donor Carol Soffer and her family.
“We’ve already had recruits in here,’’ football coach Mark Richt said to the guests after getting a standing ovation. “We’ve already had coaches and parents of recruits. And they just look at it and their jaws drop. And it’s not even finished [with] all the branding and things that are going to be done in here. It is without a doubt the finest indoor practice facility in America.
“It’s functional, it’s beautiful and it’s making a huge difference for us.’’
The project, which broke ground in May of 2017, has raised $36.3 million toward its newest goal of $40 million.
The 90,000-square-foot facility has two fields, one 80 yards long and the other 40 yards, the smaller field underneath the mezzanine where Richt’s office is will be. The football operations area, still under construction, will encompass nearly 30,000 square feet and be self-enclosed with new football offices, team meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and new recruiting areas.
The name of every Miami first-team All-American hangs from the rafters on orange banners, as does a long one with all five Hurricanes national championship seasons — with space for more. There’s a giant video board nearby.
A massive neon U in orange and green hangs on one wall. On the other: a giant mural of every Hurricanes player in the Pro and College Football Halls of Fame.
Canes defensive end Demetrius Jackson spoke about practicing outside and seeing murals of former UM greats attached to the fences at Greentree Field. “But now,’’ Jackson said, gazing at the indoor rafters, “they’re over you. It’s just amazing.’’
Jackson said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz talked to the Hurricanes about the facility earlier on Thursday, when they were inside. “The group of guys that we got, we have a few [whose] names can be up there,’’ Jackson said. “It’s just a blessing and we’re really thankful.’’
Hurricanes senior associate athletic director Jesse Marks, who led the fundraising campaign, said Thursday that close to 100 former UM players had donated about $2.3 million to the project, including Richt and his wife Katharyn’s $1 million.
“Family is one of our core values,’’ athletic director Blake James said, “and we see it play out with our program all the time — whether it’s guys that leave here throwing up the U to guys stepping up and making this project a reality. They all recognized the important need that this was for our program and it was just great to see so many of them do their part.’’
And no one did their part more than Carol Soffer and her family, who donated $14 million as the lead gift.
“It’s an honor for me to have my name on this incredible building,’’ Soffer told the audience. “But today is not about me. It’s about all of you and the U. Without your donations, we would not be celebrating this momentous occasion.
“...I am not the kind of person who needs or wants the kind of attention that comes from having my name on a building. At first it made me uncomfortable. But what it represents to me is a culmination of a lifelong passion for sports and the unique impact sport has in uniting and bringing community together.
“I want to encourage everyone to get involved and support athletics, especially women. Women have a role to play as leaders, not just in business, education, politics and health care, but in athletics as well. We can, and do make a difference.’’