Renovated Exactech Arena awaits homesick Florida Gators basketball

Florida Gators basketball coach Mike White calls a play during the Florida Gators 86-62 win over Vermont on November 25 / Gator Country photo by David Bowie With just days separating the Florida Gators basketball team from returning home, the final touches are being put on Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The $64.5 million renovation is sure to give a warm welcome to both fans and players.

Florida’s Executive Associate Athletics Director for Internal Affairs, Chip Howard, contributed a great deal of time and effort into this operation. He will also oversee the upcoming renovations to the baseball and softball facilities, as well as the stand-alone football facility. For Howard and the rest of the team that brought this vision to life, the pride is finally beginning to set in as the anxiety for completion is wearing away.

“First and foremost, it started with the study back in 2011, just an idea of what we could do if we wanted to improve it,” said Howard. “29 months ago we had our first construction meeting and here we are today getting ready to open up Exactech Arena at Stephen C. O’Connell Center. It’s a $64.5 million project, as a combination of funding from both athletics and the University. The project team was made up of a diverse group, from the O’Connell Center staff, as well as UF staff and the athletics staff. It’s a really proud moment for all of us to be able to walk into this arena and have it be opening.”

The experience for fans will be taken to a new level with the renovations. There are many new amenities that will bring the arena that had fallen behind other major programs back up to the standard that should be at the University of Florida.

“We have a new main atrium when you first walk in, a main gate, kind of a gathering spot for our fans,” he said. “We’ll have just an area to hang out, concessions options, merchandise options if you’d like. Then you walk into the main arena, you have LED sports lighting as well as new video boards, and you also have premium seating options, new chair backs throughout the whole arena, so no more bench seating on the lower level. All of those things are going to give an unparalleled fan experience to our fans.”

Other new additions include a new sound system made of eight separate pillars, improved WiFi throughout the stadium to help fans stay better connected, twice the amount of concession stands and bathrooms, two cooking kitchens that will add more concessions options, and of course the video boards. There are video boards in all four corners of the arena and a massive center-hung board. All of the video boards added up to a grand total of $2.5 million.

It has been a long road for both the renovations team and all of the Florida athletics teams that call the O’Dome home, but the journey is almost complete.

“The schedule itself was next […]