In January, the Florida Gators announced a renovation seating plan for the Stephen C. O’Connell Center that will feature a variety of changes for fans. Of primary importance is new new chairback seating throughout the entire arena (reducing capacity by nearly 1,000 seats) and a center-hung scoreboard that should provide better replay viewing angles.
Florida describes the soon-to-be-renovated O’Dome as a “new building from the walls in,” but while it will most certainly be different for Gator Boosters and some season ticket holders, not much is changing in terms of how students will view the game.
The top-tier seating options for boosters are courtside seats (located below the students on either side of the media) that also receive access to an exclusive courtside club where the visitors locker room is currently located. Other seating choices include club seats (located across the court from students) and loge seats (just above those club seats in the lower level).
As far as students are concerned, status quo should be expected aside from the comfort of the seats themselves, the new concourses and the scoreboard, all of which are obviously accessible to everyone in the arena.
The 1,000-seat reduction across the arena will also affect the lower level student section, though numbers will remain “pretty stable” all things considered.
“The Rowdy [Reptiles] will retain their end-line to end-line side-court seating in addition to their current seating sections in the next level,” Gators executive associate athletics director Mike Hill told OnlyGators.com last month.
Students lucky enough to get those lower level seats will also remain elevated off the ground and behind a railing, similar to the cage these Rowdy Reptiles are kept in now, though Hill confirmed that the platform will not be as high off the court as it is presently.
Florida’s band will also “remain in essentially the same area, which is a student section,” per Hill.
Fans at home may notice small differences in arena broadcasts on a nightly basis, but there is the opportunity for drastic improvements for the bigger games hosted in Gainesville, Florida.
It has long been a request of Gators fans to see the arena’s camera platform flipped to the opposite side, which would allow cameras to feature the Rowdy Reptiles – rather than the scorekeepers and alumni that sit on their hands – as the background throughout games. Unfortunately, while Florida did consider the change, it’s not happening.
“Try as we did to flip the camera location to showcase our Rowdy Reptiles, it was a seven-figure decision and became cost-prohibitive, so it will remain on the same side,” Hill explained.
What the Gators will do, however, is move the camera platform “slightly lower.” Whether it is low enough to please the networks – they have long had issues with the location of Florida’s current camera platform due to it being higher than most arenas (thus creating different angles for CBS and ESPN broadcasts) – and for the fans to notice a difference at home, that remains to be seen.
However, a person with knowledge of the O’Dome renovation plans did tell to OnlyGators.com that the aforementioned platform height will result in a better angle, and it will not be the only adjustment the Gators will make to aid game broadcasts, particularly bigger games aired by the major networks.
The O’Dome will also build four additional permanent camera positions, which could be utilized should a network choose to bring additional cameras for big games. Currently, the arena only has two additional temporary platforms; those will be converted to permanent platforms with two more added. One of those new camera positions will be located across from the Rowdy Reptiles for the purpose of reaction shots, though it will obviously not be the primary angle from which the game will be shot.
Construction has already begun to renovate the O’Connell Center, and it is currently on schedule to be completed by the time of fall commencement in December. Athletic director Jeremy Foley boasted about the changes during a radio show on Tuesday and promised fans would be pleased with the outcome.
Renovation mock-up via FloridaGators.com