UF's O'Connell Center getting $64.5 million makeover

FOX 35 News at 6 p.m.

- Starting as early as October, the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at the University of Florida is going to look a lot different. The sports venue is getting a $64.5 million renovation.  Chip Howard, executive associate athletic director of the UF Athletic Association said, “I think it's exciting from an athletic perspective. I think it's also exciting from a University perspective."

Upgrades will include: a brand new grand entrance will be added between gates 1 and 2, a new interior concourse with concessions and expanded restrooms, new and permanent chair-backed seats, with premium seating areas. In addition, there will be a huge new center-hung scoreboard.  Howard said  "Everything's going to be brand new when they walk in."  

Years in the making, the project was delayed a year because initial contractor bids came in too high. "There's a unique partnership between the University Athletic Association and the University of Florida to fund the project,” Howard explained.  Why choose now to renovate? Howard said it's time.  "I think it [the O’Connell Center] really needs it,” Howard said. “The infrastructure of the facility is starting to fail. I think that after 30 plus years, it's time."

Because of construction, during the 2016-17 schedules, men's and women's basketball teams will host games around the state early in their schedules. Nothing is finalized yet, but Howard said the Amway Center in Downtown Orlando is a possibility.   "We've had great experience every time we've gone in the Amway Center,” He said. “We were fortunate enough to go there a couple years ago for the NCAA  basketball tournament. Had a great experience.  [We] look forward to going back to Orlando soon”

Construction is expected to be finished by December 2016.

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