Russell Report: Gator Nation anticipate multi-million dollar Swamp renovations

Expect the current capacity of 90,000 fans will be reduced as wider seats and ADA compliant aisles are constructed.
Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 4:28 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The recent announcement that Florida is going to accept bids from architects to renovate The Swamp has created quite a stir in Gator Nation. And it should. As wonderful a place as The Swamp has been to generations of Gator fans, it’s time for it to be modernized in every way. And that costs money. Lots of it. The place is simply outdated, and Gator Athletic Director Scott Stricklin knows it.

The price tag being thrown around for the project is something like $400M but if you ask me, that’s a pipe dream. It will cost much more than that and when all is said and done. And there is no doubt the current capacity of 90,000 fans will be reduced as wider seats and ADA compliant aisles are constructed. I don’t think anyone wants the capacity of fall below 70,000 and I don’t think it will go that low but there’s little doubt thousands of seats will be lost.

The renovation itself could prove somewhat tricky. A balance must be struck between providing the modern amenities fans now want when going to a game and keeping the charm of the place for the Gator faithful who have called Florida field home since 1930. It will start with winning again. If football wins big, fans will become because they love a winner, remodel, or no remodel. And with ticket prices probably going up to pay for all of this, Florida must find a way to please the fan who is shelling out that money on game day and that comes with better concessions, bathrooms, video boards and new sound systems, not to mention wider seats to sit in. Competing with staying at home in air conditioning with your own concessions and great seats and a giant TV screen and saving money on tickets, travel and hotels is getting more difficult to do. A lot of fans now want more for the amount of money they’re shelling out and without that, some of them will simply not show up. The college football game day experience is something special to almost all fan bases but to get it these days is not as easy, convenient, or cheap as it used to be. That’s what Florida is fighting, that’s what a lot of schools are fighting today.

Stricklin has been bullish on spending big money on athletic renovations; see Condron Ball Park, upgrades going on now at Percy Beard Track, new soccer locker rooms, upgrades to the softball facility; you get the idea. The amount of money being spent on these projects is staggering but with the SEC pumping millions to its member schools and through fundraising efforts, money seems to be no object. But Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is the motherlode, the big dog, the one they’ve got to get right. That process starts now. I’m Steve Russell, that’s the Russell Report!

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