Q & A with Jeremy Foley about UF facilities

With so much talk about the athletic facilities at the University of Florida, Gator Country got a chance to sit down with Athletic Director Jeremy Foley for a few minutes to talk about UF's facilities. Foley has overseen constant upgrades in the UF facilities during his tenure. Here are his thoughts about Florida's facilities and what the future holds for expansion and renovation.

FB: What's next on the facilities agenda?

JEREMY FOLEY: Starting next summer we're building a new baseball locker room down the left field line. We'll put some new bleachers in and it will be underneath the new seating. There will be a locker room complex, office complex, training room and equipment room. There will be some indoor batting cages and an indoor pitching mound. Then we'll go back over to the Lemerand Center where the baseball locker room is now and renovate the locker room areas there so the volleyball team, soccer team and track teams have a bigger locker room area. That project's on the drawing board. We're designing it and trying to find the money for it.

FB: Do we need an indoor practice facility for football and where would we put it?

JEREMY FOLEY: I don't think that we need it and I had a conversation with Coach (Urban) Meyer about that. I learned a long time ago that you never say never, but we live in the state of Florida so obviously there will be the occasional hurricane or thunderstorms that delay practice, but to consistently have to work indoors, I don't see it. I think the bigger question is where would you put it? Certainly it would not be contiguous to anything we have around here so we would have to put players on the bus to get to it and it would be way off campus so certainly that doesn't have a high priority on our list right now.

FB: It seems we've run out of space for facilities in the area where almost all our facilities are now. Does that mean the priority is to upgrade and renovate those that we have now?

JEREMY FOLEY: When we built softball we had to move out from our present facilities. In a perfect world we would have moved that a little closer. It's a beautiful facility though and it's not that far off campus. Any future facilities that we would build we would have to build on the outskirts of campus because there is no green space left, so we have to renovate and take care of our existing facilities. We have to be continually ready to upgrade them and renovate them. That's what our priority is and that's what we will do.

FB: What is the priority when it comes to facilities?

JEREMY FOLEY: You base it on need and certainly you want to make sure football has adequate facilities because you want football to be successful and because it generates such huge dollars for us. If you can add some more seating like we did two years ago to generate more dollars, obviously we're going to do that, but we have a commitment to all our sports and making sure that we're more than adequate in every sport. I think if you look at all our sports and all our facilities, they're there with the nation's finest. But if you go into the baseball locker room, it's embarrassing, because it's too small. Go into the volleyball locker room and it's too small. Soccer locker room. Same thing. It's too small. We determined that to be a priority to upgrade because it's conducive to our philosophy to take care of all sports on an equal basis. You look and you see a need there so that becomes our high priority. There was a need when we determined several years ago that we needed a basketball practice facility so that became the highest priority. We make a decision what is the highest priority base on what impacts our teams on the field. Some people come in and say it's time to renovate these offices or build a museum and those things may be nice, but they don't impact our success on the field. Obviously, competitive facilities do and outstanding locker room facilities do.

FB: Are we going to get the jumbotrons for the O'Connell Center?

JEREMY FOLEY: At some point we'll see them. That's a question I get asked all the time. They're very expensive and right now, they just don't have a huge priority with us. Right now, the highest priority is the baseball project. You never say never, though, so I'm sure that at some time in the future we'll have video replay boards in here, but I wouldn't hazard a guess as to when that will be.

FB: Can you see that we'll change our priorities on facilities, such as building further off the main campus?

JEREMY FOLEY: The fact that we have so many of our facilities on campus and our students can walk to them, that's important. People say to me that we should build a new basketball arena. Well, number one, where would you build it? You take basketball arenas off campus and that's a mistake. I don't think that works well at all. I would rather renovate this one as we did several years ago than have our arena off campus. I would rather renovate the baseball stadium and keep it where it is. A big part of this locker room project will be renovation down there with a new plaza level and new restrooms and those things. I think we have some very good facilities, but every now and then you have to upgrade, and make them better than they are. I see that happening more than building new facilities off campus unless, of course, we were to add a new sport. I don't know what sport that would be but we are looking into it. There's no room right here to add a field or a facility. I do think somewhere down the road we're looking at a new facility for our swimming program and when we get to that point where we have to build a new natatorium, it will probably have to be on the outskirts of campus. Mostly, in the next few years, you'll see us renovating and upgrading our existing facilities. that will have to be on the outskirts of campus… so mostly you'll see us renovate existing facilities.

FB: What about the new field turf that's so much like real grass?

JEREMY FOLEY: I doubt that will happen. This is Florida and I'm not really sure you would need it.

Photo: Associated Press

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