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Gators announce plans for US$15m indoor practice facility for football

The reboot of the University of Florida’s football program, which was punctuated by the hiring of head coach Jim McElwain last month, has received a further boost with the announcement of the construction of a new indoor practice facility.

The University Athletic Association (UAA) announced plans on Wednesday to start construction on the indoor practice facility for football.

The Gators are expected to break ground on the US$15m project this week, with plans to have the facility ready to use by early September.

Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley, said:

This is something we have talked about internally for some time. We have always been able to utilize the O’Connell Center as an indoor option for the football team, but with the renovation starting this spring, it will no longer be available.

The long-rumoured indoor practice facility will be built on the site of the Sanders Football Practice Fields, located adjacent to McKethan Stadium on the University of Florida’s campus.

The announcement comes at a time when indoor practice facilities are part of the normal landscape for major college football programs; every team in the Southeastern Conference either already has one or has plans to build one.

For the Gators it means an opportunity to escape the harsh heat and inclement weather that often plagues the team during fall camp, and to avoid missing significant practice time during the season due to weather conditions.

Twice during Florida’s preparation for Florida State in the final week of the regular season the Gators’ practices were either cut short or altered due to inclement weather.

Overall during the 2014 season, an estimated 30 practices were impacted by the weather, which forced the Gators to reschedule practice, move inside to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center or Florida Gym, or cancel practice completely.

The team is forced to stop practice when lightning is within an eight-mile radius.

Based on plans released by the UAA, the indoor practice facility will house a 120-yard synthetic turf football field, additional space for practice drills on the north end of the field, three camera platforms, satellite training-room facilities, equipment storage and restrooms.

The project also features a newly redesigned entrance to the baseball stadium and football practice facility, and an adjoining plaza between the facilities.

Chip Howard, Florida’s executive associate athletic director for internal affairs, has worked closely with project designer Davis Architects (Birmingham, Ala.) and Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors, located in Jacksonville, on developing proposals for the indoor practice facility.

The facility has the features to help the Gators achieve what they need to when forced to move inside to escape the weather.

In addition to the indoor practice facility, the Sanders football practice fields will include two natural grass fields, one 120-yard field (two end zones) and a 70-yard field (one end zone).

The indoor facility will have multiple overhead roll-up doors along the east and west side for ventilation, and also for easy access to allow the team to utilize all three fields during a practice. The facility will also be available for other Florida athletic teams to use as needed.

The estimated US$15m project will be funded through private gifts and capital financing.