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Palm Beach Post (Florida)
It was a blustery Friday in Coral Gables. Wind stirred the dirt underneath Mark Richt's feet. He didn't seem to notice.
"From what I understand, there can be a category whatever hurricane going on and we can actually be practicing during a hurricane, that's how sound this building's going to be," he said. "Obviously, we won't do that, but (this) may end up being a shelter one day for people during a hurricane, because it is going to be such a solid building."
Richt, standing on his program's practice field-turned-construction site, wore a hard hat with a 'U' on the front and his name on the back as he excitedly shared details of the steel structure rising around him. By August, turf once again will cover the dirt, and the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility will be complete.
In a 13-minute video tour posted to the Hurricanes' Facebook page, Richt said the main field will be 90-95 yards, not the previously reported 80 yards, and it will have "good safety margins" on the
sides of the playing field - he said about 20 feet, "which is more than most any building I've ever been in." That long field, he said, will be used by skill players and for full-team drills. Linemen will work on a shortened field, between 40-50 feet, off to the side, adjacent to the existing UM weight room.
Also, coaches offices will be suspended from the steel ceiling, over the linemen area.
The two grass fields will remain in use, but Miami will be able to stroll into 81,800 square feet of air-conditioned space when bad weather hits.
"There'll be doors that'll roll up,"said Richt, who kicked in $1 million of his own to the project. "We'll be able to run right on the indoor practice field and continue practice without changing cleats, without missing a beat."
The major reason for UM building an indoor facility? By its estimate, 22 practices are affected by weather in a typical season. Richt felt that frustration more than most. After hearing a lightning alarm, his players would have to jog off the field, change cleats for sneakers, walk a couple hundred feet to a gymnasium, "and then by the time you get into the gym they might say, 'All clear,'" Richt said.
Now, "we'll never have to change our cleats," he said. "If we do get an 'all clear' sign once we're inside, all we've got to do is go right back outside and get back to work."
Richt noted that UM has "learned a lot" from others who have built similar facilities. An example: it won't rely on banks of lights that hang from the ceiling, which, if broken by airborne footballs, could cause delays in practice (and cost money to replace). Instead, UM plans to brighten the building with a combination of natural outdoor lighting (via windows) and by shining "most of our lights up" to reflect onto the white ceiling.
"That'll light the building without the receivers having to look up and see this bright light shining in their face," Richt said. That also has kept the height of the structure down, which no doubt keeps Coral Gables neighbors happy.
UM Associate Athletics Director Jesse Marks said UM has raised "close to $33 million" of its stated $34 million goal, with more than 160 commitments and 600 gifts through its website, Give2IPF.com.
Lamartec COO Jose Garcia-Tuñon said his construction company is on a "tight" schedule to finish the project, which includes new office space for coaches and position meeting rooms. UM broke ground May 4. He said they've poured 3,000 cubic yards of concrete and have some 18,000 to go. That'll help support the 1,200 tons of steel, which will create a building that spans 300 feet.
"By the end of June, we're going to have this building completely enclosed," he said. "By the end of July, we're going to have the main practice field ready, so that coach Richt can start his practice indoors on August 1."
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