The Florida Gators long awaited new baseball stadium broke ground on Friday afternoon.
The new baseball stadium is set to cost $65 million dollars and is located next to the Donald R. Dizney lacrosse and soccer fields. If the construction timeline remains on schedule the ballpark will host the Gators for the 2021 season.
Building a new ballpark allows Florida to move forward with plans to build a stand-alone football facility. Original plans, years ago, called for a renovation to McKethan Stadium with a stand-alone football facility wedged between the indoor practice facility and the track and baseball stadium. This new plan will allow for more space for Florida’s stand-alone facility where McKethan Stadium used to stand. Construction for that project will begin as soon as the Gators’ baseball team completes it’s 2020 schedule.
Athletic Director Scott Stricklin quickly realized that this wasn’t a long term solution, merely a Band-Aid.
“We have a National Championship program and National Championship caliber fans and they deserve a ballpark to go along with that,” Stricklin said.
“We’re very fortunate that the university had the land,” Dr. Kent Fuchs said. “We’re really blessed that we have 2,000 acres but all of our land is occupied by something.”
Florida’s athletic Association (UAA) was able to find the land on the southwest corner of campus. It’s across the street from the softball stadium and next door to the Dizney Stadium that houses lacrosse and soccer. There was a problem, the land was owned by the University of Florida and was being used by the Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). After a negotiation they came to an agreement.
“The athletic association when they first decided they needed to find a spot this just made lot of sense because we’re near the softball on the southwest corner of campus,” Dr. Fuchs said. “We came to an agreement that would actually benefit IFAS. They get some new facilities and a new location and obviously this is an amazing site for future baseball.”
The University of Florida has been playing baseball for more than 100 years. They originally weren’t even allowed to practice and play on campus, rather playing at Gainesville City park before they were allowed on campus where they shared a field with the football team. It wasn’t until after WWII that Perry Field was built and it wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s when Alfred A. McKethan donated nearly $3 million dollars did they start playing in what is now known as McKethan Stadium. The Gators have played there for more than three decades but will soon move away from their friendly confines. The McKethan name will likely not adorn the stadium as it does now, naming rights are still being talked about, but McKethan’s name and legacy will not stray far from Gator baseball.
“We’re kind of looking at all of our options right now,” Stricklin said when asked if they had decided on naming rights for the new baseball park. “The McKethan name will stay involved with Gator baseball going forward.”
New stadium details.
Location: SW part of campus at the intersection of Hull Road and IFAS Research Drive; adjacent to Dizney Stadium.
Planned Completion: June 2020 (first season 2021)
Estimated Cost: $65 million
– 360-degree open concourse
– Shade structure for fans
– Grass berms and non-traditional seating allow for capacity more than 7,000
– All permanent seating will feature chairbacks; an increase from 2,408 chairback seats at – McKethan Stadium to over 4,000.
– Multiple seating and game experiences
– Premium seating options
– High-definition video and sound
– Enhanced concession space and food options
– Prominent entry gates
– Modern student-athlete and staff amenities
– Private nutrition area and team lounge
– Film/meeting room and expanded locker room
– Indoor pitching and batting cages
– Enhanced training and rehabilitation area