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September 08, 2015

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) The O'Connell Center is back on track for a significant renovation.

Florida announced new plans for the facelift Tuesday, with a projected price tag of $64.5 million. That's nearly $20 million more than the initial estimate last year.

The Gators delayed the remodel in February, citing a change in construction companies. The project had been scheduled to begin in March.

Florida has since signed a construction authorization contract with Brasfield & Gorrie. Portions of construction are scheduled to begin this fall, but the O'Dome will remain fully operational until the renovation phase begins in March 2016.

The project, which includes luxury boxes, chair-back seating throughout the lower bowl and upgraded amenities, is scheduled to be done in time for fall commencement in December 2016.

The facility originally cost $14 million to build and opened in 1980. It has undergone several renovations since, including a $10 million facelift in 1998, a $2.5 million project in 1999 and another $2.5 million upgrade in 2006.

The nine-month shutdown will create scheduling issues for the Florida basketball team.

Since the Gators wouldn't have a home facility for games in November and December, the plan would be to play two games over three days in select cities around the state. So Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and Sunrise would host Florida home games.

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