Florida's long-term facility plan includes Swamp face-lift
By MARK LONG
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin has a long-term plan to give The Swamp a much-needed face-lift.
Stricklin wants to "find ways to upgrade the overall quality" of the fan experience inside the outdated football stadium.
He said there is some "low-hanging fruit" that could include improved wireless, an enhanced sound system and upgraded visual boards. He also said restrooms and concession stands would be remodeled throughout the facility.
But the biggest - and most expensive - part of the makeover would include revamped seating.
"There was a time when, probably when the north end zone (section) was done in the early `90s, when seat count is all anyone cared about," Stricklin said last week. "Just cram as many people as possible in there. Obviously that is not (the case) when you talk to people who do facilities and stadiums these days.
"That's not as important as quality and making sure you're creating an environment that people want to come and participate in. The days of fans being OK sitting three hours on a piece of aluminum, I think, are gone. So we've got to find ways to upgrade the overall quality."
Florida's last major renovation to The Swamp was completed in 2003. The $50 million expansion included the addition of 2,900 club seats and luxury suites. Little has been done inside Florida Field since.
Stricklin said part of the plan would be to aesthetically overhaul the 90,000-seat stadium, which could reduce capacity and create premium seating closer to the field.
"Right now, depending on what side of the stadium you look at, it kind of looks like a different facility, so to create some consistency there," he said. "They sound easy, but there are some challenges to each and every one of those."
Stricklin offered no timetable for the massive project, but said it would be the University Athletic Association's top priority once it completes a $100 million endeavor that includes a stand-alone football facility, a new baseball stadium and renovations to the softball stadium.
Florida has yet to break ground or even finalize designs for the three-pronged plan, but Stricklin said more information will be released this spring.
"You put a timeline out there and it's not unusual for that to shift and morph," he said. "We are still on a really good timeline. The sequencing of those probably will change and probably sometime this spring we'll be in position to give specifics and details. There's some approvals we have to get, some processes we have to get, before we're able to talk about those things publicly."
Other topics Stricklin addressed:
-He approved the reinstatement of four players: running back Jordan Scarlett, receiver Rick Wells and linebackers James Houston and Ventrell Miller. They were suspended all of last season while dealing with felony fraud charges. Stricklin said he looked at how the players handled themselves during the suspension: "Did they go to class? How did they do academically? Did they go to study hall? Did they take care of their responsibilities and carry themselves in a way that seems like they're somebody who wants to do right and be a productive part of the program? The individuals that are back are the ones that I believe deserve that opportunity."
-Stricklin had the ultimate say in removing signage recognizing Florida's back-to-back Southeastern Conference Eastern Division titles from a facade inside the stadium. "We don't have any other division titles, and we don't have any division titles listed at our facilities," he said. "We recognized SEC and NCAA championships pretty consistently across all of our venues in every sport."
-Stricklin said the school is exploring the possibility of adding another sport. The Gators currently field 19 sports, including 11 on the women's side. "It's not imminent," Stricklin said. "My sense is once we really get into it and study it, it's probably just going to be a women's sport if anything."
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Updated February 8, 2018