$45 million O’Dome renovations to risplace campus events to community

UF recently announced that the O’Dome is getting an overhaul, and the effects of the planned $45 million worth of scheduled renovations could impact the local business community.

The construction will shut the Stephen C. O’Connell Center down for a period of about nine months, said O’Connell Center director Lynda Reinhart.

The renovations are slated to run from March until December of next year, which will displace the entire UF volleyball season as well as preseason basketball, she said.

It also affects other events previously slated for the O’Dome, a popular venue for performances, concerts, high school graduations and fundraisers. For now, Reinhart said, management is looking for alternative places to hold those events as well the sports events.

“We are working with clients to relocate as many events as possible within the community,” she said.

The main renovation feature will be a prominent entryway, said Bahar Armaghani, assistant director and project manager for UF’s Office of Planning, Design and Construction.

“Now, you don’t really know where the main entrance is,” she said. “It will say, ‘Hey, I’m here, walk in.’”

Infrastructure such as lighting and wiring – all original to the 34-year-old building – will receive upgrades as well.

“The facility is really old, and the systems are really old,” she said. So, the renovations provide the “potential to upgrade everything, to bring [it] up to current standards.”

Those upgrades, especially to wiring, sound and lighting equipment, will improve the quality of productions held in the O’Connell Center, she said.

Another feature the renovation package calls for is club seating for UF basketball games “to provide better fan experience.” The updated O’Dome will house about 1,000 fewer seats, but Armaghani said that’s not a negative.

The new seats will be wider, more comfortable and more on par with other state-of-the-art university arenas.

“There will be fewer, but there will be better seats,” she said.

A contracting company has not been chosen yet, she said, but the first week of July kicks off design planning meetings. Those meetings will solidify details of the renovations.

For example, she said, the club seating option is “fluctuating now on where they will be, what they will look like, how the concourse will flow. There are a lot of ideas floating around.”

But the end-goal outcome is an improved visitor experience and a facility that can better accommodate the more than 2,5000 events hosted at the O’Dome annually.

“The layout of the arena is going to be more functional for all the different functions that happen in the building,” Armaghani said.

Reinhart said the renovations fall in line with UF’s overall push to reach top 10 public university status. She noted that many people only visit UF’s campus once or twice, perhaps to attend a graduation or a community event at the O’Dome.

“The O’Connell Center is the face of UF,” she said. “We want them to see what they’d expect of a top 10 university.”

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