Florida has taken its next step toward bringing the Stephen C. O'Connell Center "up to the 21st century," as UF athletic director Jeremy Foley likes to say.
Tuesday, the University Athletic Association's Board of Directors voted to formally approve the renovation process, meaning UF will proceed with the $45 million renovation of the multi-purpose arena. According to Florida Today reporter David Jones, Foley said another $15 million needs to be raised to properly complete the renovation.
UF and the UAA will now work toward finding a firm to build the renderings of the proposed O'Dome renovations. The project is expected to begin in March 2015 and run through December. Proposed changes include:
- An all-new main entrance that will be home to ticket and retail sales. The expanded new area could also be used for banquets and lectures.
- Upgraded concession stands, plus club seating and a club lounge. The O'Connell Center currently has zero "premium" type seating.
- Chair-back seating will be available throughout the arena, as the bleacher seats in the lower level will be replaced.
- All offices and locker rooms will be renovated.
- A center-hung, high-definition scoreboard will be put in place with an upgraded sound system.
- Concourses will be more open and easier to navigate with better views of the game while moving from one part of the arena to another.
Plans for the volleyball team - which will be relocated for the entirety of its 2015 season - have not been finalized. There have been discussions of Florida's basketball team playing its home non-conference schedule in various arenas around the state.
O'Connell center renovations were the major portion of the Board of Directors' annual UAA budget that was passed Tuesday and stands at $103.7 million, up from $100 million the year before.
Other aspects of the budget include:
- $12.3 million for scholarships.
- A $3.5 million donation to the university. The UAA reports $79.5 million given back to UF since 1990.
- Approval to proceed on Foley's other major current project, a $1.75 million upgrade and expansion of the Office of Student Life. Details include: expanding the facility from 35,000 sq. ft. to 80,000 sq. ft., technological advances, new computer labs, 50 tutoring rooms, a nutrition wing, a sports medicine research area and a 125-seat auditorium.
- $450,000 to repair the turf and irrigation system at the Sanders Football Practice Facility in a project that is expected to be completed by August.
Foley reaffirmed Tuesday there are currently zero plans for an indoor practice facility, though he did add "never say never."
Information from the UF school website was used in this report.