When Amanda Butler talks about the O'Connell Center, her words come from the heart. Butler was a standout basketball player for the Florida women's team and made some very big shots during the 1990s on the O'Dome floor. She later walked the stage for graduation there, served as a Gators assistant there and for the last seven seasons has won a huge chunk of her 120 games as UF's head coach there. "I've seen my share of concerts in that building, also," Butler said. "How 'bout MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice? That's pretty hardcore." The memories Butler has of the O'Connell Center are hers alone, yet thousands who have walked the UF campus -- be it as students, parents, sports/music/lecture fans or visitors -- have vivid and fond recollections of the arena that changed the university's landscape when its doors first opened more than three decades ago. Now, the building -- and future memories -- are ready for an upgrade. On Tuesday, UF and the University Athletic Association announced plans to proceed with a $45 million renovation to the 33-year-old O'Connell Center, beginning in March 2015. The UAA Board of Directors voted to approve the process of choosing a firm to design the project with construction expected to take approximately 10 months to complete. The go-ahead for the O'Dome renovations were at the forefront of the passing of the board's annual budget, which came in at $103.3 million for the 2014-15 academic year. Among other items rolled into the budget: $12.3 million for scholarships; a $3.5 million donation to the university (the UAA has now given $79.5 million to UF since 1990); approval to proceed on $1.75 million worth of architectural plans to expand the Office of Student Life; and $450,000 allocated to repair the turf and irrigation system on the football practice fields. The next step for the O'Dome project, a joint effort between UF and the UAA, will be to hire a firm that can make current mock-ups and artist renditions a reality.
UF moving forward with $45 million renovation plan for O'Connell Center
Fox Sports Florida | Jun 11