Brasfield & Gorrie Nears Completion of University of Florida Baseball Park
Enhancing the Fan Experience: Brasfield & Gorrie Creates New Ballpark for University of Florida in Gainesville
The University of Florida’s new $65 million baseball ballpark nears completion, with Gators set to kick off the 2021 season in the new facilities on the main Gainesville campus.
“The new Florida Ballpark will bring an unparalleled fan experience for Florida baseball fans compared to McKethan Stadium,” says Chip Howard, Executive Associate Athletics Director for Internal Affairs at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
The new ballpark replaces the existing structure built in 1988. The ballpark is being built on the site of the former Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“Baseball ballparks are not built everyday; they are a field of dreams,” says Erik Sharpe, Vice President and Division Manager of Brasfield & Gorrie’s Jacksonville office. “They go on to provide generations of entertainment.”
Populous Architects of Kansas City, Missouri, in partnership with local firm Walker Architects in Gainesville designed the ballpark. Brasfield & Gorrie’s Jacksonville office is managing construction of the project.
Philanthropic support, bond proceeds and University Athletic Association’s investment earnings are funding construction of the baseball ballpark.
“We couldn’t be more excited to be building a ballpark for this outstanding baseball program,” says Steven Nickels, Senior Project Manager for Brasfield & Gorrie and one of many graduates of the University of Florida working on the project. “I’ve been a Gator fan all of my life. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of Gator history and be on a project like this. It’s the type of project I dreamed of when I was a student at UF.”
The project is part of the University Athletic Association’s facilities master plan, designed to increase the athletic program’s efficiencies, boost on-field performance and enhance the fan experience. Some work was completed in 2015. Future plans incudes a new football training facility to be built on the site of the former baseball stadium and renovations to the school’s Katie Seashole Pressly softball stadium. Populous is designing that as well.
A More Comfortable Experience
The ballpark will accommodate 7,000 people, with more than 4,000 permanent chair-back seats, 700 club seats, and two private suites. It has two decks of seating along a main concourse and grass berms for people to watch the game sitting on a blanket.
“With a new 360-degree concourse for viewing and club premium spaces, our baseball fans will have a number of different viewing options, as well as state-of-the-art sound and video to enhance the experience,” Howard adds. The concourse allows fans to be anywhere in the ballpark and take in the action.
Batters and fans in the old McKethan Stadium had to tolerate sun in their eyes. Populous oriented the new ballpark with home plate facing northeast, which will place the sun in a position that will not be in batters’ or spectators eyes. Additionally, the ballpark has shade structures.
“The new shade structure will cover almost 90 percent of the chair-back seating area during the daytime for the fans’ comfort from the Florida sun,” Howard reports. “New expanded team spaces will assist the baseball student-athletes and coaches as they continue to compete at the highest level.”
Brasfield & Gorrie broke ground on the baseball park in February 2019, topped out in September 2019, and is on track to finish this summer. “It was a schedule everyone bought in on and felt confident we could complete,” Nickels says.
Early work included installing a field drainage and irrigation system, before preparing the playing field.
“In any ballpark or sports facility with a large playing field, there is a time when the field becomes off limits to other activities so crews can complete the field installation,” Nickels says. “It’s essential that we plan and sequence the work in such a way that all other scopes can be completed in a timely fashion and still allow the field to complete successfully.”
Nickels credits Brasfield & Gorrie Senior Superintendent Tim Small with carefully planning the work. He also praised the subcontractors on the job. The structure is a combination of cast-in-place concrete and structural steel, with a spread-footing foundation.
Brasfield & Gorrie self-performed various aspects of construction, including the walls, berm walls, dugouts, the grand entry staircase, the structural steel foundations, and precast raker wall foundations. Brasfield & Gorrie team members with experience in self-performance worked on the project.
Nickels says, “Self-performing allows us to have more control over the schedule, and we feel we can control quality better.”
Additionally, Sharpe says, Brasfield & Gorrie was able to perform the concrete more cost-effectively than subcontractors. The company also used excavation grade control technology, which helped automate excavation.
“This reduces labor and allows us to excavate the foundations in about half the time as compared to a traditional excavator,” Nickels says.
Nickels praised the teamwork on the project, not just among the contractors but also the university and design team. The company has celebrated topping out and other milestones with all team members. Brasfield & Gorie also used technology to make everyone’s job easier. For example, current drawings are available through PlanGrid for team members and subcontractors in the field. “It takes everybody, and this is as good of teamwork as I have experienced,” Nickels says.
Brasfield & Gorrie has worked closely with the UF Rinker School of Construction Management, inviting students to tour the project and learn about its construction. “It’s been a great opportunity to have the students come out during different phases of the project,” Nickels says.
Brasfield & Gorrie’s Experience
Brasfield & Gorrie, founded in 1964, remains a privately held construction firm, based in Birmingham, Alabama. The company has 12 regional offices and about 3,000 employees. “We’ve built projects for a number of national champions within the collegiate arena,” Sharpe says.
The firm has extensive experience with baseball projects, including the home of the Atlanta Braves, Regions Field in Birmingham, North Augusta Ballpark in South Carolina, and Phase 2 of the Hoover Metropolitan Complex in Hoover, Alabama – home of the annual Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament.
In addition to the University of Florida baseball ballpark, Brasfield & Gorrie is working on a new parking garage at the Gainesville campus. In the past, the company has renovated the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, completed additions and renovations of the UF gymnastics facility and the Indoor Football Practice Facility. Additionally, Brasfield & Gorrie recently built the UF Health Ambulatory Care facility at Wildlight in Nassau County.
“The ballpark project is a continuation of a long-standing relationship with the University Athletic Association and the University of Florida,” Sharpe says. “We are honored to put our best foot forward and the university recognizing our efforts.”