Florida breaks ground on $65 million baseball stadium

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2096
University of Florida officials, donors, former players and coach shovel ceremonially sand during the ground breaking ceremony for the new baseball stadium off Hull Road and IFAS Research Drive on the UF campus in Gainesville. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

On a picture-perfect day for baseball — sunny, breezy and warm — the University of Florida broke ground on a new $65-million baseball stadium Friday.

The ceremony drew several hundred, including some financial donors, UF president Kent Fuchs and dozens of former Gator players, including Matt LaPorta, Darren O’Day and Allen Trammell.

“It’s a great day for Florida baseball, for Florida athletics and for the University of Florida,” Fuchs said. “This is a huge step forward as we set the standard for the SEC and the NCAA.”

The stadium, scheduled for completion in June of 2020, is going to be located on former IFAS land on the southwest corner of campus, just off Hull Road and adjacent to the softball and lacrosse stadiums/facilities.

Workers will begin clearing the land, which is dotted with citrus trees and other vegetation, sometime in the next few weeks.

“Coach (Steve) Spurrier has the saying, ‘When God smiles on the Gators,’ ” UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “This day is a great example of that. It’s a beautiful day, a beautiful day for baseball. Monumental day for Florida baseball.”

The new stadium will be ready for play at the start of the 2021 season.

It will feature a 360-degree open concourse, shade structures for fans, grass berms and non-traditional seating that will allow for capacity of more than 7,000, chairback permanent seating, high-definition video and sound, enhanced concession space and food options and prominent entry gates.

There also will be modern student-athlete and staff amenities, including a private nutrition area and team lounge, film/meeting room and expanded locker room, indoor pitching and batting cages and enhanced training and rehabilitation area.

“I’ve seen the pictures. It looks incredibly awesome,” UF baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “But you know me, I’m thinking about practice starting at 2:30 today. This is an exciting day, just to see the pictures and what it’s going to look like.

“I really can’t put into words how fortunate it feels to be a part of something like this.”

Stricklin said the new stadium will be more player — and fan — friendly than McKethan Stadium, the current home of the Gators.

“We have a national championship-caliber program. We have national championship-caliber fans,” Sticklin said. “They deserve a national championship-caliber ballpark to go along with that.

“We don’t have a lot of room to do creative fan-oriented things in the current site. We’re going to have that in this location. A half-open concourse where people can move around and stay engaged with the game.

“Families can come. Older people can come. There will be shade. All the things we’ve struggled with at the current site we’re going to be able to address here.”

The original plan was to renovate McKethan Stadium. But, eventually, the decision was made to build a new stadium and tear down the old one and build a stand-alone football facility on the site.

Sticklin said the plan is to start tearing down McKethan Stadium and clearing the site after the 2020 season. At that time, construction will begin on the football facility if UF has met some fundraising benchmarks between now and then, Stricklin said.

“Assuming we hit where we need to, we should be ready to start then,” he said.  “That’s about an 18-month project. If we hit all our marks, when our team is coming back from their bowl game after the 2021 season, our football team should be ready to move into their new training center.”

But Friday’s ceremony wasn’t about football. It was about baseball and a brand-new stadium that will be ready for play for the start of the 2021 season.

“I know our players are so excited about having the opportunity to play in a new stadium,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s going to be an incredible facility. We’re looking forward to being a part of it. It’s going to be a neat process seeing it all come together.”

9 COMMENTS

  1. I speak for tens of thousands of Gator fans that are sickened by the thought that football has to wait until 2022 for a stand alone facility. Foley put us 10-15 years behind the competition and Strickin decides to build a Taj Mahal for the few thousand fans that attend baseball games! Tear down McKethan today and get started on the football all-in-one NOW. Baseball can play at an alternate site in the mean time like others teams have done while waiting for new stadiums. Football pays the bills and we fans are tired of having second-rate facilities.

      • Everyone knows football pays the bills. BUT, our major sports facilities have fell way behind other powers. Foley put a nice band aid on the O-dome (I watched it go up everyday when I was in school, 40 years ago). Now the Swamp has turned into a “pieced together appearance” mess, in need of an overhaul. How they fix it will be an interesting project. How do you get rid of the “lop sided look”?

      • You surely speak for me. Football is by far my #1 but I fully support where Stricklin is taking this program. Get the new baseball facility (much needed and much deserved) built then work on the football facility. Yes, football pays the freight but ALL student-athletes deserve the best experience that UF can provide.

    • Many Gator fans just remember that Foley put us behind in facilities and rightly so. However, we also need to give credit where credit is due. Before he retired, he did make facilities a priority and created much momentum to a tune of $207M in projects completed or planned since January 2015.

      https://www.foxsports.com/florida/story/florida-gators-new-football-facility-upgrades-091616

      Projects completed included a $15M Indoor Practice Facility, $65M O’Dome renovation, $25M Academic center for student-athletes, and renovated the football dorms into luxury apartments. Before he retired, he unveiled a $100M plan for a new 100,000 SF stand alone football facility, modifications to the baseball and softball stadiums, as well as a new dining hall.

      What has Stricklin done on facilities other than delays, more delays, price increases, and more price increases, and pretty pictures? If he had stuck with Foley’s plan rather than get cute trying to put his stamp on the master plan, we would be moving in the Stand Alone Football Complex about now rather waiting for the baseball stadium to break ground, and another year before the old stadium is razed, and at least another year for the football facility to be built. Foley’s $207M plan is not a band-aid but that’s just my opinion.