Mike Hill updates O-Dome renovations

Living “life in the dome” may become quite swanky in coming years, and “laundry day” may hardly be the only thing described as “nice.”

As Florida’s basketball program continues to entrench itself among the nation’s elite, the overwhelming opinion is that the O’Connell Center follows suit.

The multi-purpose facility not only hosts basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and swimming, but also serves as site for various university events. As a result, the $10 million dollar contribution sought by UF was recently approved by the school’s board of trustees.

The overall price tag of the massive renovation is estimated to cost between $45 million and $50 million.

“The University of Florida Foundation and Gator Boosters are in the process of trying to secure funds to help pay for the project,” said Mike Hill, Florida’s executive associate athletics director. “But until the funds are secured, the project will not be initiated.”

In the meantime, the plans remain in an evolving, conceptual stage that includes some grandiose ideas.

“The final design has not yet been completed, but some general concepts include a significant renovation of the interior of the building, including chair back seating throughout, as well as a permanent bowl on the second level and a concourse that navigates fans behind the seating structure, providing access to expanded concession areas and restrooms,” Hill said.

The project, which Hill said is intended to “transform the building,” would also include a significant exterior facelift.

“There will likely be a grand entrance facing the football stadium that will extend between the O’Connell Center’s current Gates 1 and 2, creating a massive lobby area which can also be used for meetings and tradeshows,” Hill said. “Connecting Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and the O’Connell Center could be a bricked patio area, ideal for pre-game gatherings.”

The ideas are numerous and exciting, but for now, remain on the horizon.

“It is difficult to project a timeline until we see how the fundraising efforts are progressing,” Hill said.

In the meantime, O-Dome “residents” can look forward to these, and other considered creature-comforts, including a center-hung video board, club seating and a private lounge area.

Yup, “life in the dome” will be pretty sweet.