University of Florida

UF athletics will spend $130 million on facilities. Here’s where the money’s going

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin will oversee a $130 million facility plan that includes a standalone football facility, a new baseball stadium and upgrades to the softball stadium.
Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin will oversee a $130 million facility plan that includes a standalone football facility, a new baseball stadium and upgrades to the softball stadium. jmcpherson@miamiherald.com

The University of Florida’s athletic department unveiled on Friday a timeline for its next wave of facility improvements. The announcement includes upgrades to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, home of UF’s softball team, as well as details about the school’s new standalone football complex and baseball stadium.

The total estimated cost for the three projects is $130 million, with $73 million already secured. Of that sum, $50 million is from bonds, $10 million is from University Athletic Association investment earnings and $13 million is from fundraising. The remaining $57 million will also have to be raised through fundraising, but no state money or school money will be siphoned to support the projects.

“Our athletic department is consistently among the top five in the nation,” athletics director Scott Stricklin said in a release, “and it is our intent that all three of these facilities mirror that.”

The most expensive — and perhaps the most striking — of the three is the football complex, which the UAA estimates will cost $65 million. The behemoth facility will be built where McKethan Stadium — currently home of Florida’s baseball team — now stands.

It will be two stories, as opposed to the three-story building originally slated for construction north of the the Percy Beard Track, with efficiency as its main goal. Don’t expect a slide or a bowling alley a-la Clemson here.

It will house a locker room, meeting rooms, a weight room, player dining, coaches offices and player hang-out areas. As the renderings currently stand, the new complex will bump the team’s indoor practice facility, making it much easier for players to move to and from practice. As it stands now, players have to make a 15-minute walk from the bowels of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — where the weight room is currently located — to reach the practice fields.

The building will try and blend in with the campus’ existing brick architecture, but it will also feature large glass panels in front to create a prominent entrance.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2019 or early 2020, after McKethan Stadium is demolished.

“We will build the top facility for the University of Florida football program,” football coach Dan Mullen said in a release, “with the No. 1 emphasis on doing what is best for the development of our players.”

The new baseball stadium, meanwhile, is scheduled for construction beginning later this year. The goal is to have it ready in time for the 2020 season. That would make next season the team’s last at McKethan, which was built in 1988.

The new ballpark is estimated to cost $50 million and will look very different from its predecessor, starting with proximity. The lowest seats will be almost at eye-level with the players, whereas McKethan’s seats begin about 10 feet above the field.

The new park will have a capacity of 10,000, with 5,000 chairback seats (no bleachers) compared to 2,408 in the current stadium. It will feature two decks of seats behind home plate as well as shade structures above the top deck.

The remaining fans can sit in the grass or stand along the foul lines or the outfield while enjoying a 360-degree concourse that allows fans to walk around the field and see the game from different vantage points while enjoying new, unspecified food options.

The stadium, which is yet to be named, will be constructed near Florida’s softball and lacrosse stadiums on the southwest corner of the campus. That 13.63 acres is still used as part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), but the UAA is giving that program $3 million to invest in research and new facilities.

The new stadium will also include an adjacent practice infield to be used for other activities during games. There will also be improved player facilities like a locker room, lounge and batting cages. Florida’s dugout will be relocated from the first base side to the third base side.

The park is being designed by Populous, the architecture firm responsible for, among others, Yankee Stadium and Marlins Park.

“Once it’s completed,” baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan said in a release, “our student athletes and staff will have first-class facilities that rival any facility in the country.”

The softball renovations are the least expensive of the group at $11 million, but they’re also the quickest. Construction will start after this season and should be finished in time for next season. Changes for fans include an open concourse, overhead shade structures and full chair-back seating. The renovations will also raise the stadium’s traditional seating capacity t0 2,280 from 1,431, or to 2,800 counting non-traditional options like the grass hill.

The players, meanwhile, will get an on-site weight room so that they no longer have to use the facilities at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, among other upgrades.

“We are very thankful,” softball coach Tim Walton said in a release, “to have this opportunity to improve upon the championship atmosphere created by our dedicated fans.”

The three updates are phase two of three of the UAA’s master facilities plan. Phase one included the renovations to the O’Connell Center, the construction of football’s indoor practice facility and the opening of the academic-focused Hawkins Center.

Phase three, which will include updates to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, will be announced at a later date.

“We want to invest wisely in our infrastructure to enhance our student athlete and fan experiences,” Stricklin said, “And we want to make sure we are making the best long-term decisions to create championship experiences with integrity for all of those that touch our programs.”

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