GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Florida Athletic Department announced significant facility plans Friday, to include program-changing upgrades to its current softball stadium, a new baseball ballpark on the southwest part of campus, and a new stand-alone football training complex in the location of the current baseball stadium. These projects, which combined are estimated to cost $130 million, are part of phases 2 and 3 of the University Athletic Association's Facilities Master Plan.
Original facility plans called for the UAA to renovate the baseball stadium and build a football training complex north of the Percy Beard Track, but after an extensive review with contractors and architects, it was determined that building a new baseball ballpark and locating the football training complex on the current baseball stadium site is a better long-term solution for the athletic program.
"We want to invest wisely in our infrastructure to enhance our student-athlete and fan experiences," said Athletics Director Scott Stricklin. "And we want to make sure that we are making the best long-term decisions to create championship experiences with integrity for all of those that touch our programs. Our athletic department is consistently among the top five in the nation, and it is our intent that all three of these facilities mirror that.
"With the change in facility locations for both baseball and football, we will now adjust the sequencing for these projects. Baseball will need to be built first, which will allow us to repurpose the current baseball site and put the stand-alone football complex in that space."
The estimated $11 million renovation to softball's Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium will begin in the summer of 2018 with a goal for completion prior to the 2019 season. Renovations will include a 360-degree open concourse, shade structures for fans and an elevated press box. Fixed seating, which will be all chairback seats, will increase from 1,431 to approximately 2,280 and overall capacity will be approximately 2,800. There will be modern student-athlete and staff amenities, such as locker room and sports medicine facilities, and enhanced experiences for fans.
Construction for the estimated $50 million baseball ballpark, with an overall capacity of 10,000, will begin in the fall of 2018 with a completion goal prior to the 2020 season. Home plate will face northeast with the sun behind the stadium for a cooler atmosphere for the student-athletes and fans. A 360-degree open concourse will give fans constant field views and multiple seating options will be under shade. Permanent chairback seats will increase from 2,408 to approximately 5,000, while fans will also be able to choose from premium seating and non-traditional seating options to bring overall capacity to approximately 10,000. Enhanced concession space with new food options will also be available for fans, while student-athletes and staff will enjoy modern amenities and increased spaces.
Construction for the $65 million 130,000-square foot football training complex will be based on site availability and currently estimated to start in late 2019 or early 2020 with a completion goal of 2021. The facility will serve as the new day-to-day home for Florida football student-athletes and staff. Florida's meeting rooms, locker room, strength and conditioning area, training room and coaches' offices will all be adjacent to the practice field, creating maximum efficiency within the program. Other details are still in the development stage and will be announced later.
Florida's new baseball ballpark will be located on Hull Road, near the Donald R. Dizney Stadium and Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium on the southwest part of campus.
The baseball stadium will utilize 13.63 acres of land previously occupied by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (UF/IFAS).
The UAA will contribute $3 million to UF/IFAS, which will then invest these funds in redeveloping research and instructional facilities to benefit College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students in horticultural sciences, plant pathology, environmental horticulture, and agronomy programs. Activities previously located on this property will continue in a different campus location nearby.
"This is a win-win for UF/IFAS, our students, faculty and the university community," said Jack M. Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. "Teaching and research activities will continue and students will continue to learn in facilities and agricultural sites appropriate to the level of a top 10 public university."
"We are fortunate to have a great partnership on campus between academics and athletics," Stricklin said. "Collaboration with a focus on excellence enables the University of Florida to be a top 10 program academically and one of the premier athletic departments in the nation."
"Phases 2 and 3 of our Facilities Master Plan will greatly improve efficiencies and operations in softball, baseball and football," Stricklin said. "We've all seen the impact that Phase 1 made with the Indoor Practice Facility, Otis Hawkins Academic Center at Farrior Hall and the renovation of Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center and we expect the same in these phases. We are very thankful for the support of our donors during Phase 1 and I am enthusiastic about the momentum from Gator Boosters moving into phases 2 and 3."
"We are excited to know that our national championship softball and baseball teams are getting upgrades for their respective facilities and fans will have a great experience in their new stadiums," said Dan Mullen. "I'm also thankful for the deliberative and strategic approach we are taking in building our football training complex. We will build the top facility for the University of Florida football program with the number one emphasis on doing what is best for the development of our players."
"We are really excited about this project. Once it is completed, our student-athletes and staff will have first-class facilities that rival any program in the country," said Kevin O'Sullivan, "In addition, the new stadium will be much more suited to provide an outstanding experience for our fans. The administration has some unique ideas to ensure that the fan experience will be like nowhere else."
"It's an exciting time to be a Gator. We are very thankful to have this opportunity to improve upon the championship atmosphere created by our dedicated fans, and enhance the quality of resources for our student-athletes, coaches and staff," said Tim Walton. "The renovations to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium will continue to provide an intimate setting for fans who want to be close to the action, while also helping keep Florida softball in the competitive hunt for championships in the Southeastern Conference and at the national level every year. Special thanks to our loyal Gator Boosters, the administration and all UAA staff members who had a hand in making this project a reality."
The projects will be funded through private gifts, bond proceeds, and UAA investment earnings, with no state or university funding. The University of Florida Board of Trustees approved Friday a bond resolution for $50 million for Phase 2 of the UAA's Facilities Master Plan.
Per state of Florida debt management guidelines, the Board of Governors still has to approve the bond resolution at the end of June.
The UAA has made significant progress to date and already identified funding for $73 million of the $130 million needed for the three projects (including $50 million in bonds, $13 million in philanthropic support and $10 million in UAA investment earnings). The remaining funds needed will be dependent upon the generosity of the Gator Nation as Scott Stricklin and the Gator Boosters staff continue to involve key constituents to support these important initiatives.
The full Facilities Master Plan, which will significantly impact the experience for all Gator student athletes in all 21 programs, as well as the fan experience in Ben Hill Griffin stadium, will be announced at a later date.