The dream is about to become a reality, Canes fans.
In a special ceremony held at the Greentree Practice Field, the University of Miami “broke ground” on the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility Thursday evening – signifying the long-awaited start of construction of the $34 million project.
The new indoor practice facility, which will be located on the current football practice area and be connected to the Hecht Athletic Center and Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence – will be expansive.
It will exceed 100,000 square feet – housing two turf fields that combine for 81,000-square feet, as well as a football operations center with a mezzanine level for the football coaches’ offices and meeting rooms.
Miami’s other sports programs will also have access to the facility as well.
Even though the school had the ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday, the school says that it still needs about $2 million dollars to fully reach its target amount. The university set up a website – www.HurricanesFootballFacility.com – that outlines the plans for the building as well as information on how to donate.
UM Director of Athletics Blake James spoke to a local radio program Thursday and said that the day marked “exciting times” for Miami.
“It’s a very exciting day and to see it become a reality is important for our program and exciting,” James said during the interview.
The AD has also maintained that the target date for completion is in August 2018.
“I’m confident we’ll be ready to go for fall camp of 2018,” James said in April. “That’s been the goal all along.”
Miami’s IPF namesake, Carol Soffer, knows what an indoor practice facility can do for a college football program – especially since UM was one of the few “Power 5 conference” schools without such an edifice.
“I’m excited because this indoor practice facility puts us another level as far as recruiting and commitment to our wonderful student-athletes and coaches,” Soffer said this past September when the school unveiled the renderings for the structure.
“Our facilities are now to be comparable with any other school in the country. And as a woman, I am proud to have my name on the University of Miami indoor practice facility for football. I’m sure there are not too many of us who have this great distinction.”
The Soffer family took on the mantle of being lead donors for the project.
Carol Soffer’s son, billionaire and South Florida real estate developer Jeffrey Soffer along with her daughters Jackie Soffer and Brooke Soffer, contributed $14 million – the largest donation in the history of Hurricanes athletics.
The Soffer children decided to name the facility after their mother, who has been a longtime Hurricanes fan.
Others have also stepped up and contributed towards the cause, but few have stepped up and contributed the way current Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt has.
Richt, a Miami alum, and his wife reportedly donated $1 million of their own money towards the IPF and he’s been instrumental in stoking the pride within other established football alumni to donate as well.
UM’s administrative athletic staff has confirmed that 60 former players have contributed nearly $1.7 million, including Richt’s big pledge and $250,000 from former Canes linebacker Jon Beason.
After leading UM to a 9-4 season in his first year on the sideline, Richt knows that Miami having an indoor practice facility can help elevate the program back into the elite group of the college football ranks.
“We need it and I’m the coach and I know what we need. It’s also my alma mater, it is my school. It’ll bless this program for years to come,” Richt said.
“We are the only university in the ACC without an indoor practice facility or one under construction,” Richt wrote in a letter on HurricanesFootballFacility.com. “It is affecting our practice time, preparation, and recruiting success…Florida is the lightning capital of the United States…On average, we lose or must reschedule 22 practice sessions every year due to weather-related issues.”
Weather in South Florida borders on the bipolar during the summer months. An afternoon can begin with sunny temperatures reaching the triple digits then be followed – a mere hour later – by torrential downpours of rain with thunder and lightning. Then the next hour will be a humid and muggy slogfest.
That cycle will repeat itself almost on a daily basis – wreaking havoc on an outdoor practice schedule for players wearing almost 10 pounds of layered equipment and a helmet.
Richt is confident that Miami’s new facility will be the tool it needs to win games on and off the field.
“I have seen every facility in our division and many others. And I can confidently say that Miami’s will be the premier facility in the United States… the best,” Richt said. “With your support, we will be prepared for every opponent. We will play with tremendous effort. We will compete at the highest level. We will build champions…and we will win.”