The University of Florida Athletic Association announced plans for major renovations to several of the facilities on campus. Naturally, the news of a stand-alone football facility stole headlines, but the Florida Gators baseball and softball teams will also be getting major renovations to its stadiums as well.
The collective project is estimated to cost roughly $100 million dollars, with most of that price tag going to the new construction to the football facility, but Kevin O’Sullivan and Tim Walton are hardly an after thought in the proposal.
McKethan Stadium’s seating will receive an entirely new design, with, yes, panned awnings that would provide shade to some seating. The early designs call for a renovated press box to make room for new club seating. There will be field level seating, replacing the walled backstop that currently stands. The left field wall will be raised to match the height of the Dizney complex above Florida’s batting cages along the left field line and that is just to upgrade the fan experience. The renovation will drastically change the day-to-day functions of the team and coaches as well.
“A shading structure for three of the sections there behind home plate and to the first- and third-base side,” Executive Associate Athletic Director for Internal Affairs Chip Howard said. “Offices that would be down there, team locker rooms, visitor team locker room and a meeting room that could function during regionals as a media room for interviews after postseason.”
The early renderings show a larger, more modern locker room and a brand new entrance and face to McKethan Stadium. Seating will be boosted from approximately 5,500 seats to 6,000 after the renovation.
O’Sullivan, who was rumored to be the target of the University of Texas’ search for a new coach last season, was involved in the plans but never made an ultimatum.
“I’m not going to say that he decided to stay because of a facility but part of the conversation was a commitment. He goes around this league and sees what he plays in on the road, there’s pretty good facilities around the country. He’s not banging on the tables saying I need new facilities to be successful because he’s already been pretty successful with what we have.”
Foley looked O’Sullivan and Walton in the eye and promised that these renovations would get done, and Thursday’s proposal is the first step in Foley making good on that promise.
The two-time National Champion softball program will also receive a much-needed renovation.
“Softball, a lot of what we’ve been talking about lately with our original study was expansion of the seating area, which we really need,” Howard said.
The seating for softball will increase from approximately 1,200 to 2,500. The stadium was originally built in 1996, with the first game being held in 1997 at a cost of $2.6 million dollars. Like the baseball renovations, an awning for shade will be added as well as additional restrooms and concessions to accommodate the larger capacity.
One problem that baseball and softball will share that may not be as big of a concern to football is timing. Both softball and baseball use their stadiums as a primary practice facility, so construction would need to be in the offseason.
“I think each project’s unique, but when you look at the timing of it,” Howard said. “Specifically for softball and baseball, that’s their competitive home as well as their practice home, so you can have a field, but if you’re going to get in there and get it done, you’re going to need to get it done from mid-June until the beginning of February.”
Thursday’s proposal was just concepts. The proposal has been a year in the making and will bring the Florida Gators up to par with the rest of the nation in terms of facilities. It also shows Foley’s continued dedication to the entire University of Florida Athletic teams.