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UF takes first public step toward a $400M-plus renovation to its aging and iconic Swamp

 Stadium where University of Florida football plays, known as "the Swamp"Aerial view of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, popularly known as "The Swamp"
Red Lemon - stock.adobe.com
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The Swamp is getting a makeover.

The stadium first opened as a 22,000-seat facility in 1930. It has been expanded several times in nearly a century since, with capacity now at roughly 90,000, but it lacks many of the conveniences experienced in modern NFL venues.

The Swamp is getting a makeover, a significant overhaul that's expected to cost at least $400 million and be a "multigeneration solution" for an aging and iconic stadium in the heart of Florida's campus.

The Gators announced plans Monday to hire an architect for the design of its revamped Florida Field, the first public step in a process that's been ruminating for years. The school will open a formal selection window in July.

Athletic director Scott Stricklin said it's "premature to speculate" on the final cost, seating capacity and a specific timeline. But he made it clear the project's main goal will be to transform the game-day experience for fans while maintaining a lot of what helped the Gators create one of the most daunting home-field advantages in the Southeastern Conference.

"Whatever work we do there doesn't need to be a Band-Aid," Stricklin said at the league's spring meetings last month. "It needs to be a multigenerational solution to continue to give that stadium for future generations a chance to come and watch the Gators there.

"It has to be everything from how fans experience when they're outside the stadium, when they walk through the gate, concourse, concession, restrooms, inside the seating bowl, new premium options, better premium options. But you also want to keep what's special about it."

The stadium first opened as a 22,000-seat facility in 1930. It has been expanded several times in nearly a century since, with capacity now at roughly 90,000, but it lacks many of the conveniences experienced in modern NFL venues.

Proposed upgrades are sure to include wider concourses, less bench seating, more concession options, larger video boards, a new sound system and improved lighting throughout. Capacity is expected to be reduced by thousands.

Renovating the Swamp would be the latest — and by far most expensive — facility upgrade on campus.

The Gators have spent more than $300 million in the last decade to build or renovate venues for baseball, softball, soccer/lacrosse, tennis, track and field, and basketball. The list also includes an indoor practice facility and a standalone facility for football and a new academic center for student-athletes.

"We're in the service business; we don't make widgets," Stricklin said. "We create experiences, whether it's for our student-athletes, our staff and ultimately for Gator Nation. So when you are in the service business, there's not a lot of tangible results. It's a lot of intangible results.

"It's what kind of experience are you creating on game day? What kind of memories are coming from those experiences? Do people want to plan their lives around coming back to enjoy that experience again? We sell tickets and we sell T-shirts. Beyond that, it's we want to create experiences — and winning is a big part of that experience — but you've got to have all the other pieces."

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