Florida Gators are ‘prepared’ to host sporting events, including for pro teams, in Gainesville

By Adam Silverstein
May 14, 2020
Florida Gators are ‘prepared’ to host sporting events, including for pro teams, in Gainesville

Image Credit: GatorsFB / Twitter

It is not out of the realm of possibility to see NFL games be played at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2020. This revelation comes as Florida Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin said Thursday that he informed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that the Gators’ athletic facilities will be available should professional sports teams need venues down the line.

“Our priority is the well-being of Gator student-athletes, staff and fans, and we are working toward the day when we can once again engage with those groups safely on campus,” Stricklin said in a statement provided to OnlyGators.com. “Following Governor DeSantis’ comment [Wednesday] inviting other pro teams to participate in our state, I reached out to remind him that UF and Gainesville have world class health care facilities, an iconic football stadium, a state-of-the-art basketball arena and a brand-new baseball ballpark within two hours of cities with professional franchises.

“We’ve been receiving excellent guidance from our state and health care officials, and when those groups believe it is safe to host college and pro sporting events in Florida, we will be prepared to do so.”

DeSantis, during an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” stated that he wants to open the State of Florida for athletics as he already has to entertainment and media. WWE has been holding events in its Orlando-located Performance Center since March, while UFC and All Elite Wrestling have both broadcast events from Jacksonville over the last couple of weeks.

“I’ve already spoken with some of our colleges, like the University of Florida,” DeSantis said. “They got a great football stadium, The Swamp, that’s not used on Sundays. So if an NFL team needs a place to land, we could work that out, too.”

Not only does DeSantis want to open the state so its own sports teams can compete, he has invited other professional teams potentially displaced from states like California to temporarily move to Florida for their home games.

Stricklin reaching out to the governor makes sense in this regard, as it would be a boon to the University of Florida’s budget to rent out its facilities that may otherwise not be in use. It certainly would prefer to be at the forefront of those conversations rather than lag behind other cities that could potentially host events, including MLB spring training sites.

With venues in Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami and Tampa already hosting their own franchises, Gainesville could suddenly become a key spot a number of professional teams. Imagine the San Francisco 49ers playing in The Swamp, the Golden State Warriors suiting up inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center or the Los Angeles Dodgers playing games in the new McKethan Stadium.

This is all well and good, but it remains unlikely that pro teams will ultimately need to go that far to secure new home venues amid the coronavirus pandemic.

If it were to happen, there would be endless complexities, including asking The Swamp to manage hosting football games in consecutive days, maintaining clean locker rooms and ensuring all facilities were safe for players, coaches and support staff.

So will you see an NFL game in The Swamp in 2020? Probably not. But it is fun to think about given the circumstances.

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