Florida unveils plans for $15M indoor practice facility
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida announced plans for a $15 million indoor practice facility for football on Wednesday, becoming one of the last Southeastern Conference teams to build one.
Vanderbilt unveiled its full-size facility in November 2013. South Carolina is building one that is expected to open later this year.
Georgia has a 30-yard indoor field that's used for warmups and some drills, but far from ideal for full practices. Last September, the Bulldogs approved $400,000 for initial research into the construction of a full-size indoor facility.
The Florida project is expected to be completed in early September. It's one of the first steps in getting the football program back on par with some of the league's - and nation's - elite.
Although athletic director Jeremy Foley downplayed the need to upgrade facilities when he started looking for a new coach in November, official documents related to the indoor project listed ''compete with peers to recruit quality student athletes'' as one of the main reasons for it.
''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,'' the school wrote. ''This, in turn, puts the football program at a disadvantage in recruiting top student athletes.''
New coach Jim McElwain seemed to notice the same thing after he was hired in December. McElwain has since started tweaking the football program's infrastructure.
''It takes time and those are the things we're building right now,'' McElwain said this month. ''The total evolution might not be done until next fall because there are a lot of those pieces that great organizations (have). ... You're going to see a lot of things integrated as we move forward.''
The new facility will be built on the current practice field and will contain a full, 120-yard turf field. It also will have additional space for drills, training room facilities, equipment storage and restrooms.
''This is something we have talked about internally for some time,'' Foley said.
The Gators estimate that 30 practices were affected by inclement weather in 2014. Previously, the team would move into the nearby O'Connell Center for drills, but an upcoming renovation will render the facility unusable for most of 2015.
The $15 million will be funded through private gifts and capital financing. The facility also will be available throughout the year for other Florida sports.