Florida ups facility spending to $130M, adds new ballpark

Author: Associated Press

Florida has significantly revised plans to upgrade several on-campus facilities, which will now include a new baseball stadium across campus and a more expansive building to house the all-important, revenue-generating football program.

The Gators released details of the changes Friday, saying the estimated cost of the projects will jump from $100 million to $130 million.

Florida will spend an estimated $65 million to build a stand-alone football facility adjacent to the team’s practice fields. The 130,000-square-foot structure will house a weight room, locker rooms, meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and areas for players to workout, study and lounge. The two-story structure is expected to be much more efficient than the three-story one previously proposed in September 2016.

Construction on the football building is scheduled to begin in late 2019, with the goal to be completed in 2021. It will be built where Florida’s baseball team currently plays. McKethan Stadium, which opened in 1988 and has been upgraded several times since, will be demolished following the 2019 season.

A new ballpark will be built on the southwest side of campus, near the school’s lacrosse and softball fields.

The park will cost an estimated $50 million, and Florida expects to break ground this fall. The ballpark will be built on 13.63 acres that currently belong to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences and are home to fruit trees. The University Athletic Association agreed to pay IFAS $3 million in exchange for the land. That money also will help fund the relocation of the trees.

The Gators said the ballpark will have the capacity to hold 10,000, with half of those being chair-back seats.

The plans call for double-deck seating behind home plate, lots of shade and fans much closer to the playing field. Florida, which won its first baseball national title in 2017, wants to create a better home-field advantage and improve the overall fan experience.

Florida also will spend $11 million to upgrade its softball facility, Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The enhancements include a larger, elevated press box, increased capacity (from 1,431 to 2,280), chair-backs seats all around and a new locker room for players.

Construction will begin this summer and is scheduled to be completed before the 2019 season. Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium was built in 1996 at a cost of $2.6 million. The Gators won back-to-back national titles in 2014-15.

The Gators already have $73 million of the total needed for the renovations. The UAA’s Board of Trustees approved a $50 million bond Friday. The state’s Board of Governors still must approve the bond resolution at the end of June, but that’s considered a formality.

Florida also has raised $13 million for the projects and has $10 million earmarked for them from investment earnings.

The revamped designs are the latest step toward completely overhauling Florida’s facilities, which had been considered lagging in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference.

Florida spent $105 million in 2015-16 to renovate the O’Connell Center, build an indoor practice facility for the football team and open an academic center for student-athletes.

The Gators have more planned down the road, too. Athletic director Scott Stricklin has said Florida Field, where the football team plays, needs a face-lift and will be part of the next wave of on-campus projects.

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