Florida announces $130 million facilities plan: New baseball site, standalone football complex, softball upgrades

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In the next few years, Florida plans to complete a new baseball stadium on a different site, build a standalone football complex where the baseball stadium currently sits and upgrade it’s softball venue.

All told, athletic director Scott Stricklin announced a $130 million facilities project that will get underway this summer with a targeted completion date in 2021.

Florida is calling this Phase 2 and 3 of its facilities master plan, and it will launch with an estimated $11 million in renovations to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, home of the Gators’ national-contending softball program. That part of the project is slated to begin this summer with completion by the 2019 season.

Meanwhile, the Gators will build on a brand new $50-million baseball stadium on 13,63 acres off land off Hull Road near the lacrosse field at Dizney Stadium. The University Athletic Association is acquiring the land from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at a cost of $3 million to facilitate the UF/IFAS’ relocation. That project is set to begin in the fall of 2018 with expected completion prior to the 2020 baseball season.

And once the baseball team gets through the 2019 season in its current home, that will be demolished so that construction can begin in late 2019 or early 2020 on a planned 130,000 square-foot, two-story football complex estimated to cost $65 million. It will sit adjacent to the Indoor Practice Facility and outdoor practice fields overlapping with the present location of McKethan Stadium.

“We want to invest wisely in our infrastructure to enhance our student-athlete and fan experiences,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement accompanying the news release Friday. “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.”

Florida was initially looking at renovating the current facilities at McKethan Stadium, but athletic officials decided over the summer that would not be a long-term fix for the reigning College World Series champions and also did not leave enough space for an ideal football complex. In that scenario, the standalone football facility would have had to be three stories to achieve the desired square-footage, but that would have taken away from the intended efficiencies of the building.

Florida announced 13 months ago that famed sports architecture firm HOK would design the football complex, which will house team meeting rooms, a locker room, a strength and conditioning area, a training room, coaches offices and other amenities for the players. The design remains fluid, and new Gators coach Dan Mullen will have significant input on the layout and composition of the final product.

The goal, of course, is to stay competitive in the football facilities race to help with recruiting while also providing needed upgrades to the present team areas housed inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida officials visited Clemson and Kentucky’s new football facilities while gathering ideas for the project.

Parrish-McCall, out of Gainesville, has been selected as the construction firm for the project.

The new baseball stadium, which will include new naming rights opportunities, will increase the permanent seating from 2,408 to 5,000 with an overall capacity of around 10,000, including standing-room areas and grass berms.

It will address one of the major criticisms of the current ballpark, which faces the sun and provides no shade for fans. The new park will have home plate facing northeast with the sun behind the stadium and will also include built-in shade from overhangs above the lower seating level.

Additionally, plans call for a 360-degree open concourse around the ballpark.

It is being designed by Populous, which has developed numerous Major League Baseball stadiums, including the new Yankee Stadium, Marlins Park, Target Field in Minnesota, PETCO Park in San Diego and many others. Walker Architects of Gainesville is also involved.

Florida officials do not believe there is any risk the baseball team will be displaced for any home games during the 2020 season due to delays, confident there is enough gap built in to maintain the timeline.

Populous and Walker Architects are also working on the softball stadium renovations, which will similarly include a 360-degree concourse, shade structures, an elevated press box and replace all bleacher seating with chair-back seats. D.E. Scorpio Construction, out of Gainesville, is attached to the project.

“Phases 2 and 3 of our Facilities Master Plan will greatly improve efficiencies and operations in softball, baseball and football,” Stricklin said in a statement. “We’ve seen the impact that phase 1 made with the Indoor Practice Facility, Otis Hawkins Academic Center at Farrier 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.”

So far, Florida has identified $73 million of the total $130 million budget, including $50 million from bonds, $13 million in philanthropic support and $10 million in UAA investment earnings.

No state or university funds are planned for the project, but the Gators still need to raise the rest of the money.

Also, per state of Florida debt management guidelines, the board of governors still has to approve the bond resolution at the end of June. The UF board of trustees approved the bond resolution for $50 million for phase 2 on Friday.

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