In a 5:30 p.m. release on a Wednesday, Florida dropped some of the latest bit of bad news in a frustrating year for its major sports: The planned renovations to the O'Connell Center, which houses Florida's basketball, gymnastics, swimming, and volleyball teams, will be postponed one year from their originally scheduled March 2015 start date. Adam Solomon of Gainesville's WCJB was first to tweet the news, and passed along Florida's reasoning.
Costs, scheduling, and change in construction management contributed to the decision to postpone O'Dome renovations.— Adam Solomon (@AdamSolomonWCJB) February 25, 2015
Florida's full release on GatorZone was posted about 20 minutes after it was distributed to media members.
An aggressive schedule, escalating costs associated with the rehabilitation project and a change in the construction management team contributed to the decision. Current cost estimates for the project are approximately $60 million.
"The renovation proposal is a major renewal of one of our campus’s most iconic buildings. It’s incumbent on us to take the time and do it right," UF President Kent Fuchs said.
The delay allows for the completion of the construction management team’s design plans, which currently are about 60 percent complete. A new construction manager has been brought in, and a construction schedule and budget should be forthcoming in the next couple of months.
The university is still assessing what effects the change will have on student, community and athletic events generally held in the O’Connell Center. Announcements will be made on any changes once information is confirmed.
UF's spring commencement ceremonies already scheduled to be held in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will remain there.
All athletic team events typically held in the O’Connell Center are expected to continue without interruption for the 2015-16 season, including men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and gymnastics.
"We remain 100 percent committed to this project," UF Athletics Director Jeremy Foley said. "The $60 million that we have already earmarked for the project is indicative of this commitment."
It's possible that Florida simply doesn't have the projected $60 million to cover a renovation in full at this point: "Earmarked" is not "raised," and I had heard whispers about Florida struggling to get all of the money in for the project in recent months.
But it's also true that the Gators' aggressive timeframe for a renovation — to begin at the conclusion of the athletic calendar for Florida teams using the O'Dome this year in early March, and be completed by December 2015 — was going to be an issue if anything went wrong, and, whether or not the money is the ultimate reason for the delay, a change in contractors would probably be enough to throw a tight timeline out of whack.
Florida still badly needs a "new" O'Connell Center, and will still make it happen. But this is a setback, to be sure.