Florida Gators progressing towards potential indoor practice facility for football

By Adam Silverstein
December 9, 2014

While the Florida Gators were in the midst of hiring a new head football coach, the University of Florida continued to progress in its plans to potentially build an indoor practice facility for the program with a completion date as early as July 2015.

In October, a notice of bid/request for a proposal requiring “design/build services” for “Project UAA-35, Indoor Practice Facility (Main Campus)” was submitted to the Florida Department of State, with the University Athletic Association noting that it was “considering the possibilities of providing an indoor practice field for the football program on its current practice site” as well as “a new storage building … to provide space for a satellite athletic training space, hydration station, toilet, and field maintenance equipment.”

A UAA spokesman told The Gainesville Sun in October that there were no plans on the horizon to build an indoor practice facility, and that may have been the case at the time, but the early stages of planning have continued.

The UAA hired RDG Planning & Design to mock up plans for a potential indoor practice facility, which the company did by creating three options that would require adjustments to the current site of Florida football’s practice fields.


» Option 1: “An inflatable, tensile structure over the current location of the synthetic practice field” that would cover 70 yards (including two end zones). Cost for the structure and support building would total approximately $4.6 million, making it the lowest-cost option and also one that would allow for “flexibility of quick and easy take downs.”

» Option 2: “A more permanent indoor facility utilizing tilt-up precast concrete walls and clearspan steel roof structure” that would “take advantage of natural cross ventilation with large overhead doors on each side of the field.” This structure would utilize a natural playing service and also span 70 yards (including two end zones) at a cost of approximately $10.2 million, including the support building. It would also require a solid retaining wall and the likely relocation of the throwing area for track & field (safety precautions).

» Option 3: A slightly less expensive option at $10.1 million, this would be constructed using the same general design as option two but oriented in an east-west direction. It would also result in the Gators’ other two practice fields to be oriented north-south and be shortened to a 40-yard practice field and 35-yard drill field.

The above are mock-ups of IPF options and not approved designs.

It is important to note that all three options are relatively simple indoor practice facilities that will give Florida the ability to avoid missing practices due to weather and provide a couple of other comfort benefits but not much else in the way of bells and whistles. The surfaces would each be approximately 70 yards, including a 50-yard field, two 10-yard end zones and anywhere from 0-20 feet of a buffer between each end zone and the back of the structure. The school would set aside $11.9 million for the project.

On December 4, the UF Planning Design and Construction Division met with four firms – D.E. Scorpio/Walker Architects (Gainesville), Skanska/Alfonso Architects (Tampa), Charles Perry Partners/RDG (Gainesville), Brasfield & Gorrie/Davis Architects (Birmingham, Alabama) – at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, each receiving 50 minutes for a presentation and discussion.

[Editor’s Note: CPP is responsible for some of the most well-known facilities, expansions and renovations on campus. Among its numerous other on-campus contributions, CPP has completed three projects on Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (expansion, skybox additions, west concourse renovations); built the Heavener Football Complex next to The Swamp; and created the basketball practice facility, lacrosse facility and tennis complex.]

As part of the official documents submitted in October to begin this process, UF and the UAA gave two specific reasons as to why they felt an indoor practice facility was necessary for the football program.

• Allow practice to continue without interruption of inclement weather. At times, the team needs to seek cover during these events. This disrupts the continuity of the team’s training session.

• Compete with peers to recruit quality student athletes. The facility’s lack of space for indoor training has set the University’s program behind the majority of their peers within the SEC conference and the NCAA. This, in turn, puts the football program at a disadvantage in recruiting top student athletes.

Just last month on Nov. 18, athletic director Jeremy Foley promised the Gators would “not [be] getting into an arms race” with their facilities during the same press conference in which he announced the dismissal of head coach Will Muschamp.

“I wear orange and blue goggles a lot, and I’m certainly willing to have wide-open eyes, but I don’t agree with the assessment that our facilities have fallen behind. We judge our facilities based on [whether] they help our programs be successful. Do they make an impact on their ability to be successful? Whether that’s a weight room for football or a gymnastics practice studio, whatever have you,” explained Foley.

“As you look around our facilities, we’re not into bells and whistles. We’re always looking to upgrade our facilities, but we’re not getting into an arms race.”

Florida is currently one of five SEC schools without a full indoor practice facility; the other four – Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State and South Carolina – are either in the process of building one or have plans to do so. (UGA and USC, respectively, currently have 30- and 50-yard mini indoor facilities.)

That is not to say the Gators and UAA have not spent plenty of money on their programs over the last decade. Florida invested $54 million in The Swamp from 2003-04 and another $28 million to completely renovate the football facility and create the Heavener Football Complex from 2007-08. An additional $6.2 million was spent in 2009 to replace video screens and install the Heisman Trophy-winner statues, putting the outlay over the last 10 years for football alone at approximately $88 million.

Unlike many athletic programs, Florida is not tasked with keeping just one top-tier, money-generating program current but rather two. The Gators have spent $3.4 million since 2006 to improve the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and will begin a $45 million facelift to the facility at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season. The Gators also recently built a lacrosse facility for the national title-contending team and spent $4.5 million to renovate the practice studio for the gymnastics squad, which has won back-to-back national titles.

Along with the O’Dome renovation scheduled for next year is an additional $1.75 million renovation to the Office of Student Life, which Foley said is a big deal for Florida.

“We’re putting a major, major expansion into our academic center,” he said. “I think when you bring young men and women on campus with their parents, our commitment to their academic success and their personal development as human beings is really important.”

Should the Gators decide to go ahead with getting an indoor practice facility approved, designed and constructed by July 2015 – a tall task considering the other projects on campus – it would it available for both summer and fall practice. Florida football currently trains in the O’Dome during inclement weather, but the facility will be unavailable until December 2015 due to the aforementioned renovation.

OnlyGators.com reviewed 10 documents spanning dozens of pages to obtain the above information. All the documents are available to the public.

28 Comments

  1. Daniel M. says:

    Great write-up. Highly unlikely that this can be accomplished by July. Design 3 looks like a cattle auction barn but I like it the most.

    Go Mac!
    Go Gators!

  2. NIck says:

    I think plans for the IPF will probably have to be shelved for a bit considering the school spent close to what the cost of building one on Muschamp and the new coaches buyouts.

    • All of that is paid out over time, so should not 100 percent negate building an IPF this year. The last paragraph is important.

      If the O’Dome is not available and the football team can’t practice outside, it can’t do anything…no walkthroughs or anything…unless it goes to like Florida Gym or something.

      • Daniel M. says:

        Does Muschamp’s pay-off get reduced if he takes another job?

      • Gatorgrad79 says:

        I tailgate in my RV on the grass track throwing area north of Pearcy Beard Track and our lot has been closed to new permits for awhile and we were told they will be moving us….something is in the works for sure. Nice reporting job, Adam.

      • NIck says:

        “If the O’Dome is not available and the football team can’t practice outside, it can’t do anything…no walkthroughs or anything…unless it goes to like Florida Gym or something.”

        Adam IIRC the team did a walk through in Florida Gym during FSU week due to inclement weather. Worst case scenario couldn’t they just rent an inflatable structure (like some NFL teams do) to use during the season while the O-Dome is under construction?

  3. sean kidd says:

    I live out in Oregon now. Take away the crazy facilities that Phil Knight provides to UO because that is unfair to compare, but Oregon State with a stadium seating capacity of about 45,000 has an indoor facility as does two of the high schools nearby………high schools! And we don’t? This is crazy. In 1999 I was at the UF Kentucky game in Lexington and toured their indoor facility and wondered why we didn’t have one. I couldn’t imagine 15 years later we still wouldn’t.

    Foley says this isn’t an arms race. He is terribly mistaken if he thinks that 18 and 19 year old kids are not swayed one way or another by this kind of stuff. I hope he wakes up before we become the Penn State of the south under his watch.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      In all fairness (and by no means am I defending Florida’s lack of an IPF) I’d imagine that Oregon State, and any team in the northern region, would be much better equipped for the types of weather they deal with given their geographical location. There’s some really nasty weather up that part of the country.

      • g8ter27 says:

        That is true, the weather certainly demands an indoor facility out here (especially this time of year). Oregon is a great example of how kids think though. They are routinely out recruiting UCLA and USC in the past 5 years for some 5 star players. They see where they get to wear a new uniform combo every week and that appeals to them, They then win games because they have great athletes which in turn brings in more great athletes. I juut hope we get something soon to help Mac out.

      • Steven says:

        Uh…this should make the point for us.

        How many times does in rain in August & September? Florida in the summer.
        Even just going inside to give the kids a break from the heat every now and then

        • gatorboi352 says:

          Yep, as I stated in my first comment: “(and by no means am I defending Florida’s lack of an IPF) ”

          I hear ya.

  4. MAR says:

    Football is an outdoor sport. Good lord, how much do you need to spoil these kids?! Free education for most of them, best doctors, trainers, tudors, etc… Unless it’s a crazy rare lightning intense storm, the game goes on, why not practice that way? Per capita, most games are played in whatever conditions exist. I’ve never witnessed a Gator game live (and I’ve been to a bunch) that might be canceled due to weather. The worst weather I ever experienced was at the cocktail party in 90-something (it featured the famous well called time out that nullified UGA’s game winning TD) when it was raining relentlessly. The game went on and I had a blast. Rivers were flowing down the streets and we just got wet and had fun. I know that is an old school way of thinking and all the big programs have indoor facilities, but man, go play outside for the love of god! It’s amazing to me that college football has reached a point that it is too high class to practice outdoors if the weather isn’t perfect. Football in Florida has been going on just fine for many years without indoor coddling. There are bigger things to worry about than whether you practice outside or inside. Isn’t the weather in Florida one of the reasons it is such an attractive place to be and play?

  5. MAR says:

    As I live in Alaska now, I didn’t go to the Idaho game. Anyone know how many games have ben canceled at UF due to weather? Bet it’s not that many. Needing a place to practice indoors is prima donna to me. Suck it up and figure something out if the weather isn’t perfect, or just realize that the chances are that the game would go on in the weather you are scared of at whatever given moment it may be.

    • Gatorgrad79 says:

      MAR,
      Te problem is lightning. There is value in being able to practice in rainy conditions to prepare for a rainy game day but NCAA rules prohibit practice during lightning events which ca screw up August and September practices.

  6. MAR says:

    In hindsight, maybe living in Fairbanks has made me bitter about anyone who can’t deal with Florida weather. The weather is awful here beyond comprehension. So, sorry to bitch. Go Gators!!!

  7. Michael scott says:

    You have fallen behind and recruits know it.you aren’t capable of admitting your mistakes (muschump zook poor facilities )foley

    • Dwight says:

      Question! Why must you make a fool of yourself?

      • Steven says:

        It’s true though.

        Is Foley willing to do what it takes to win because other schools sure are.

        • Steven says:

          and this isn’t necessarily a knock of Foley.
          He gives a lot of attention and money to other sports. He has built one of the best athletic programs as a whole.
          He prides himself on giving money back to the school.

          But those things don’t win football games.
          Would you rather have an AD who is willing to do everything to win Football and Basketball games or would you rather have Foley?
          I’m not sure of the correct answer.

  8. Ib-beastin-urmoms says:

    Let’s see didn’t have an IPF in the 90’s, no problem recruiting. No IPF under Urban, no problem recruting. Maybe it’s we aren’t winning games? But that’s all going to change Go Gators

    • Ken (CA) says:

      no one else had IPF then either, so it was even game. The players appear to be afraid to get rained on nowadays, no wonder the SEC hammers the Big 10, god forbid should be cold or snow.

      As far as recruiting, I think we will get 3/4 top 50 players still considering us, maybe 4/4 if Ivey doesn’t go with his friend who pledged Auburn.

      I believe coach Mac will absolutely hammer the recruiting that is available and think we will get some turned heads our way and pull some that were committed and left and will come back or just flat out pull some from FSU and other schools. I of course have nothing to back this up and just believe UF made maybe the 2nd best hire it could. I really thought Peterson would be the home run, but Foley knows it a lot more than I do.

      I am incredibly excited to get recruiting updates from Adam over the next few weeks, even with the dead period, I really would love to know what current commits, decommits and so many top players still interested have to say about the program and coach Mac. It is brutal in this 24/7 news cycle to keep things going and find out what is going on,

      I am hoping every little rumor and possibility or commit will be posted quickly. Even Adonis Thomas committing today to Bama, I don’t know if I believe that is fixed. Really curious to see what can be built and how he does.

    • Steven says:

      Other schools have left us in the dust. Our facilities were sorely lacking before the heavener renovation. IMO that renovation just got us to average for other programs of our stature. Now more and more have kept adding and again we are behind.

      Recruits come here and our facilities don’t compare to a lot of schools that wouldn’t even be considered in the same league as Florida.

      Just take a look at Miami about 10-15 years ago. Their facilites were crap and they decided not to invest.
      Look at what that program has become. It’s difficult to consistently get big time recruits to go there because their facilites aren’t even half as good as a UCF.

      Facilities matter and no matter how much Foley denies it. Our’s are an absolute joke for a school of our stature.

  9. Michael J. says:

    It’s not a big deal. UF will get an IPF because everyone else has one, but it won’t win any games. As for recruiting, it will get better. FSU rules the state right now but that can change very quickly. UF rules the state under Urban Meyer but Fisher was able to sell hope to recruits and was able to get good classes his first couple of years, even if they weren’t as good as Florida’s. Then, when FSU started to win, he was able to get great classes that kept pace with UF and he is now dominating the state. That’s the blueprint for McElwain, he has to sell hope right now. Winning will cure all ills. It is going to be a bad recruiting year, but that’s to be expected. UF may get a few good players this year, after all FSU doesn’t have room for them all. IF UF can finish with a top twenty class, that would be fantastic considering how far behind they are now with Rivals ranking them currently in the 80’s.

  10. Brian R. says:

    FYI-

    D.E. Scorpio Corporation/Walker Architects is out of Gainesville, not Jacksonville.

    Also- This IPF is 100% happening and funded. Don’t be fooled. It will be completed by July.

    Go Mac
    Go Gators!

    • You’re right. I adjusted the location.

      Yes, it’s definitely funded – that was never a question raised in the story. But the approval is not official, and I cannot report it as such until it is by the school.

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