Florida Gators postpone $60 million renovation to Stephen C. O’Connell Center for one year

By Adam Silverstein
February 25, 2015

The Florida Gators announced Wednesday that a planned $60 million renovation to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center has been postponed one year.

Citing an “aggressive schedule, escalating costs associated with the rehabilitation project and a change in the construction management team,” the University of Florida‘s University Athletic Association will no longer push the project forward at the conclusion of the 2014-15 basketball season.

“The renovation proposal is a major renewal of one of our campus’s most iconic buildings,” said new school president Kent Fuchs in a release. “It’s incumbent on us to take the time and do it right.”

According to Florida, the new construction management team’s design plan is “about 60 percent complete.”

“We remain 100 percent committed to this project,” athletic director Jeremy Foley noted. “The $60 million that we have already earmarked for the project is indicative of this commitment.”

Announced in June with renovations originally slated to begin in March 2015, the 35-year-old O’Dome’s renovation was said to include a “prominent main entrance,” club seating, permanent chair backs, a “center-hung, high-definition video board” with a sound system, concourses and concession stands, offices and locker rooms, and advanced “mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.”

Initially projected to cost $45 million, the price tag was pushed to $60 million, Foley detailed earlier this month. UF, the UAA and various donors have all committed to funding the project.

Gators basketball, the most prominent program to be affected by the renovations, would not have been able to play a single non-conference game at home during the fall 2015 semester had construction begun as scheduled. It is currently unknown what Florida will do from a scheduling perspective as it initially planned to go on a barnstorming tour throughout the state rather than play home games.

The O’Dome renovations were also said by Foley to be a driving force behind the new $15 million indoor practice facility being constructed for the Gators football team that will be ready by early September.

“The fact of the matter is that with the renovation of the O’Connell Center, what was our backup no longer existed. So you have no backup, in essence you’re telling your football program that you’ve got no place to go,” Foley said last month.

“Obviously, you could not do that. I think when you look at some of the weather changes, especially the heat early in the year, this facility is just going to enhance our program and give our coaches more options. We’re excited about doing it. I think there is an opinion that we were dragging our feet on it, and I can understand that and accept that, but you know everything done here is done for a reason, done with a purpose, done with some thought behind it, and at the end of the day, we built the facility not only because we thought it would enhance our football program, maybe enhance recruiting, but our backup was gone. You certainly can’t have a program of this magnitude and not have a backup for inclement weather.”

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