Florida’s first two games in the renovated $64.5 million Exactech Arena/O’Connell Center has been well received by fans.
The Gators did record sales in concessions in their debut game against Arkansas Little-Rock, according to Florida executive associate athletics director for internal affairs Chip Howard. Average attendance has been near capacity at 10,539.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with how the building has functioned in front of large crowds,” Howard said.
About the only issue that’s cropped up has centered around sightlines in the front rows of some of the 100 and 200 sections near the staircases. The stairways are required to have railings due to code enforcement, Howard said. The stairway structure can’t have open spaces of larger than four inches, hence the cables that impact sightlines to the court as well.
“That’s a code enforcement issue that you have in every stadium and arena,” Howard said. “I was down in Amalie Arena this week at a Lightning game, obviously we were at Raymond James Stadium , same thing there. It’s a safety issue and you have to have railings.”
But Howard said he understands how fans who bought season tickets in those front rows would be upset, given the structures weren’t shown as part of the online presentation of court views.
“We had a few people who wanted to switch seats and we switched the seats for them,” Howard said. “Some people may give up being able to look through the railings, the way we have it, in order to have row one. Over time that will balance itself out.”
Asked if the cables between the stairway structure could be replaced by clear plexiglass to improve the sightlines, Howard said: “When you run into Plexiglass you run into cleaning issues, you run into cracking issues. You can’t have anything larger than four inches square there, that fits through there, that’s why you have the cable system to try to minimize the sightline for those folks just in row one. Plexiglass, is that a potential, yeah we could do it, we could change all that out but then it would have to be OK’d by both the facility itself and code enforcement.”