Florida's finally giving the Stephen C. O'Connell Center its much-needed facelift — officially.
The school announced the approval of the project on Tuesday through the University of Florida website and GatorZone, making the plans that have been rumored and reported for months into a concrete part of Florida's future. The University Athletic Association Board of Directors voted Tuesday to approve the process of choosing a firm to design the new building, per GatorZone.
The renovation will include the construction of a new atrium facing east toward Gale Lemerand Drive, between Gates 1 and 2, to serve as the main point of entry for visitors, a new concourse, a center-hung high-defintion video board — something that has become the standard for even college athletic venues — and sweeping changing to seating that should give every fan a chairback seat. Coaches and players will benefit, too, from overhauls of the offices and training facilities currently located in the bowels of the O'Dome, some of which show the age of a facility that was officially opened on December 30, 1980.
UF's release indicates that the UAA will supply $35 million of the $45 million currently being budgeted for the project, with $10 million coming from the university. Both articles posit a 10-month timeline for construction from March 2015 to December 2015, with GatorZone's confirming that Florida's volleyball team will have to play its home matches elsewhere in 2015, and that Florida's men's and women's basketball teams will spend the non-conference portions of their 2015-16 schedules away from Gainesville, something mentioned in last week's Around the World post.
One glaring omission: There's no confirmation that this renovation will reduce capacity in the O'Connell Center, currently listed at 11,548 people, but my understanding has been that a renovated facility will have a capacity closer to 10,000, and I would expect fuller discussion of that facet of the renovation as it gets closer to a reality.
But two official releases from both sides of the UF power structure make it clear that this much-needed and long-planned renovation — note the old Gator Head logo, with the lighter green underside of the mouth, on the artist's rendering above — is finally, officially, going to become a reality.