While it is excited about the ongoing upgrades to Sun Life Stadium, Miami stands mostly alone in lacking one key piece of a modern-day, major-college football program.
As of today, the Hurricanes one of four teams in the Power 5 football conferences – the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 – without an indoor practice facility of some size, or a plan to build one.
Boston College – which has for several years used an inflatable practice bubble to shield its teams from the elements — last week announced plans to build a permanent structure.
That leaves Miami alone in the ACC, which is especially concerning given the surrounding metro area is among the wettest in the U.S. In 2014, the Hurricanes suffered 15 rain-delayed, postponed or canceled practices (a total for last year was not available).
Last month, UM Athletics Director Blake James told the Post that an indoor facility “remains a top priority for us,” but that UM was still hoping to secure a big-money donation to set things in motion. Indoor football facilities can cost between $10 and 40 million; the Miami Herald reported UM’s proposed project will cost $17 million.
“I’m confident we’ll get a gift,” James said. “Everyone recognizes how important it is for the long-term success of our program.” UM continues to work with architects on the design, which will likely be constructed on UM’s current campus “given our limited land resources,” James said, “but until we finalize that, that’s still to be determined.”
What plagues the Hurricanes, aside from lack of funding: its campus land space is almost entirely spoken for, and the City of Coral Gables is a highly developed area with strict building codes.
College indoor practice facilities vary in size. Alabama touts its building, which houses a 130-yard field, as the nation’s largest. Miami coach Mark Richt’s former program, Georgia, has a 50-yard field. However, the Bulldogs are building a much larger barn.
Every SEC school has or is building an indoor facility; the last school without one, South Carolina, opened one last year. Same goes for the Big Ten, after Northwestern broke ground on one. Every school in the Big 12 has long had one. Three schools in the Pac-12 — California, Stanford and UCLA — don’t practice indoors, but they exist in mild, mostly-rain-free climates.
UM, a private university with the ninth-smallest enrollment among Power 5 schools, has slowly been catching up.
It spent more than $25 million in the last three years on a new athletics complex, a makeover of its football and soccer fields that included installation of lights, a new dining facility for athletes and a video board for its basketball arena.
The Hurricanes are also the beneficiaries of an estimated $400 million renovation to Sun Life Stadium, paid for by the Miami Dolphins. The stadium UM will play in this fall will have a canopy roof, four new video boards, new seating and other upgrades.
Last September, UM began a 12-year partnership with Adidas that could be worth $90 million in total. That will outfit the Hurricanes with new gear on a regular basis.