HOOVER, Ala. — Prior to departing for the 2019 iteration of SEC Media Days, the Gators football team congregated in the tunnels of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for a moment that had been in the works for months.
Florida unveiled the renovated Bryan E. Kornblau locker room to the team Monday morning, and impressions and images quickly spread like wildfire through the social media accounts of UF’s student-athletes.
In addition to renovating the physical lockers themselves, the project, which began in April after the conclusion of spring camp and cost $1.5 million to complete, brought a graphical overhaul, updated carpeting and lighting, and more to what will serve as UF’s game-day locker room.
Furthermore, Florida renovated the players’ lounge, adding reclining chairs, four televisions and video game systems to “help the players relax”, according to a UF release.
“I love it,” said Franks. “I only went in for two minutes and then walked out, but it’s an awesome locker room.”
While the rest of the team stayed back in Gainesville to revel in the renovations, Florida’s contingent of Franks, Lamical Perine and Jabari Zuniga hopped on a private jet bound for Hoover, Ala. — but not before taking note of the latest amenities.
For the 6-foot-4, 257-pound Zuniga, having a comfortable spot to relax after practice caught his eye.
“Probably the reclining chairs. We had, like, couches, but we didn’t have reclining chairs that went all the way back so you could take a nap,” said Zuniga. “It can go all the way back so you can go to sleep.”
In the eyes of Zuniga, who opted to return to Gainesville for one last ride after flirting with the NFL, Florida’s first locker room renovation in a decade couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It’s something that we’ve definitely been waiting for,” he said. “Coming off the season that we had, too, definitely.”
While Franks, Perine and Zuniga concurred the Gators are already a close-knit group, it’s clear the revamped room is more conducive for team-building — in the short- and long-term.
“It’s a great thing, man,” Perine said. “Just happy to see this program increase so much, and that will help our recruiting as well. It’s a big step.”
As for the current crop of Gators, Florida’s signal-caller foresees the fixes only furthering the camaraderie at UF.
“I think when you come in there and you have a place that people are excited to go to, and we have couches there we can sit on and watch TV and are reclining,” Franks said, “opposed to being somewhere else, apart from each other. It’s somewhere that we can be mutually and it’s right there around the facility.”
The locker room will continue to be the home of the Gators until the projected $85 million Florida Football Training Center is complete. Once that facility is finished, the locker room will continue to serve as the game-day locker room for the Gators.