The O’Connell Center’s $64.5 million interior renovation project took another step forward with the beginning of the demolition phase this week.
“It’s a culmination of 21 months since we had our first construction meeting,” said UF associate athletic director for internal affairs Chip Howard. “The design team and construction management firm have worked really hard, so it’s a big day to finally get underway with a very important, critical project here for the university.”
General contractor Brasfield and Gorrie and Davis Architects are working alongside the University Athletic Association on the project, with the goal to be complete in time for winter commencement in December. Florida will play all of its non-coference games on the road or at neutral sites throughout the state to begin the 2016-17 season before SEC play begins.
Brasfield & Gorrie senior superintendent Josh Light, who is overseeing the project, described it as a “total renovation of the O’Connell Center, from top to bottom.”
“We’re gutting out the service level, redoing locker rooms and bathrooms,” Light said. “We’re making additions to the east side with new entryways. Gates 1 and 2 are getting totally redone, and a full concourse level with concessions. Inside the arena, we’ve got new sound systems going in, videoboards, and really enhancing the visual aids inside the Dome.”
Light noted that Brasfield and Gorrie was able to get a head start working on the east end of the O’Dome in January, starting on some underground work.
“We identified some areas if, we were able to get into, would greatly increase our success rate,” Light said.
The modernization of the inside of the arena has been a priority for UF in an effort to improve fan amenities and entice recruits. But Howard said that fans will remain close to the court.
“The intimidation factor that we’ve had here at the O’Connell Center is still going to be there,” Howard said. “Our fans are going to be right on top of the court, as they always have been and the O’Connell Center is going to be as loud, if not louder, as it’s always been. So we’re looking forward to re-creating that intimidating atmosphere that’s been here in the past.”