University of Florida $50 million renovation on the O'Connell Center, a multi-purpose facility that is used primarily for basketball, volleyball, indoor track and field and gymnastics, to begin next spring after the conclusion of the 2014-15 season.
DESTIN – (Florida Today) University of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said at the SEC spring meetings on Wednesday he expects the $50 million renovation on the O'Connell Center, a multi-purpose facility that is used primarily for basketball, volleyball, indoor track and field and gymnastics, to begin next spring after the conclusion of the 2014-15 season.
Foley said the school still has money to raise but is "closing in on where we need to be."
Once renovation begins, the Gators will no longer hold indoor track events in the facility since it is being permanently reconfigured.
He hinted that an official announcement and conclusion to the fundraising for the renovation could be coming in the next few weeks. The University Athletic Association is close to the date to finalize voting on the athletic budget for the next school year and around that time the plans should be finished.
The plans are to completely renovate the arena, which will include massive upgrades in seating, etc., with more of a bowl configuration. In the meantime, Foley said the Gators will have to play games around the state of Florida — mentioning arenas in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa as sites for the start of the 2015-16 season.
He hopes the renovations will be finished by January of 2016.
"We have some (University Athletic Association) board of directors meetings coming up and board of trustees meetings coming up and we still have some money to raise," Foley said. "But I'm confident that all these things will come together in the next couple of weeks. We'll certainly know more in about two weeks."
Florida is also expected to name its playing floor at some point after current coach Billy Donovan, although it hasn't been publicly announced.
Foley also deflected talk that Miami and Florida could restart the once annual series in football and there are no concrete plans for future meetings.
"It's not imminent," he said. "It's certainly not a renewal of the series. If it's a game that would work out and be beneficial to both programs and the dates would work, all those things would make sense. Not being critical, but what I read, it gave the impression that more has happened than really has happened except a concept of an idea. It would be a neutral site."
Some other topics Foley touched on:
• On facing FCS opponents in the future, with strength of schedule expected to be a major part of the playoff committee selecting teams for the national championship: "My issue is having 12 games and filling certain dates. The conference gives you a schedule and now you have dates that you have to fill. Now you have to find people who are available to play. I don't know who quoted (Alabama coach) Nick Saban yesterday, but Nick's exactly right. It's not like you pick up the phone and everybody wants to play you. It's hard finding games, so the value of playing an FCS is it's a game on a date when you're available. I understand the conversation, but those have been win-win situations, too. Obviously, last year wasn't win-win for us on the field. But it helps their program and it helps our program. It's not philosophically where I'm going to go schedule an FCS school. I have to have games and I have to have a game on this certain date. That's the attractiveness for me. As an athletic director, I've got to fill a spot."
• On ESPN and the new SEC Network starting: "ESPN is big time. I was very excited about their presentation today. I've been around those people for a long, long time. This network is going to be successful because of their professionalism, because of their efforts. So no, we're all good there."
Foley said UF invested $2 million in upgrading its TV studio facility for start of the new conference network.
"We were blessed, before this even came about, we were fortunate enough to get a major donation from one of our great donors and we had just totally redone our studio," he said. "So, our investment had already been done."
• On whether an NBA team had asked Foley if they could talk to Donovan: "We're the University of Florida, they're in the NBA. They don't have to do that. Billy is our basketball coach. We'll be fine."