UF candidate to host pro sports

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[Courtesy of UAA]

Imagine the possibilities.

NFL football on Sundays in The Swamp.

NBA basketball games, maybe even playoff games, in Exactech Arena.

The Yankees or Braves or multiple other Major League Baseball teams christening the new Florida Ballpark, playing games this summer before the Gators get their chance next spring.

It all sounds and seems so surreal. But, maybe, just maybe, it could become reality.

The day after Gov. Ron DeSantis said that the state would welcome any professional teams to practice and play their games in Florida if they can’t do it in their own states, UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said he was open to the idea of making the school’s stadiums available to the pros if the health conditions are right.

Stricklin sent that message directly to DeSantis on Thursday.

“I reached out to remind him that UF and Gainesville have world-class health facilities, an iconic football stadium, a state-of-the-art basketball arena and a brand-new baseball ballpark within two hours of cities with professional franchises,” Stricklin said.

“We’ve been receiving excellent guidance from our state and health care officials, and when those groups believe it is safe to host college and pro sporting events in Florida, we will be prepared to do so.”

The state is in the first phase of reopening from the coronavirus lockdown, but there is still no timetable for when sports — professional, college and high school — will be cleared to resume.

UF has been planning for the Gators’ 2020 football season to start on schedule on Sept. 5 against Eastern Washington. That, of course, could change, depending on what happens with the virus over the next two-and-a-half months.

“Our priority is the well-being of Gator student-athletes, staff and fans, and we are working toward the day when we can once again engage with those groups safely on campus,” Stricklin said.