UF PRESIDENT COMMENTS
J. Bernard Machen (UF president 2003-2015)
The University of Florida is about learning, getting to know the cultures and peoples of the world and of course, cheering on the Florida Gators. Only one place on campus brings us together for all that and more: the O’Dome. From provocative speakers to memorable shows to legendary athletic competitions, the O’Dome is the center of UF life and a destination for all Floridians. We look forward to renovations that will extend and build on that tradition enhancing the facility for decades to come.
Charles Young (UF president 1999-2003)
During my years at UF, I came to know and love the O’Connell Center and was very happy that it had been named for Steve O’Connell. I know how important it is to the university community and the larger community in North Central Florida. Whereas some places claim to be a multipurpose facility, this one really is.
It is used for so much more than basketball. It houses numerous other programs. I recall so many events there, including the time when President Bill Clinton came and spoke. It is a marvelous facility, which was done on a shoestring budget. It was originally made with a balloon type roof, which was made more stable and permanent in recent years.
I know this renovation will make it more useful and usable for so many people in the coming years. I’m glad it can be renovated for the price I’ve heard, which is one-fourth the price of a new facility. There is so much history there, it would be a shame to do away with it and build a new facility. That’s why I’m so glad this renovation will maintain the history of the facility — its connection with Steve O’Connell and the university — and elevate its usefulness for so many people in the coming years.
John Lombardi (UF president 1990-1999)
The O’Dome, an iconic symbol of UF’s commitment to student life, serves an endless parade of initiatives and bears witness to the many triumphs of student achievement across the generations. Periodic renovations fulfill the institution’s commitment to supporting all types of student activities at nationally competitive levels. UF expects top performance from its students, and the O’Dome’s constant renewal supports and validates that expectation.
Marshall Criser (UF president 1984-89)
The O’Connell Center, since opening in 1980, has well served as the only major in-door activity assembly facility of UF. In addition to intercollegiate sports — basketball, swimming, gymnastics, etc. — it is the only in-door site capable of hosting commencements, lectures, performances and assemblies for large numbers of attendees at UF events.
On occasions, particularly those celebrating many private fundraising events, the O’Connell Center has been transformed by use of partitions, draperies, lighting and furnishings into an elegant site for formal, black tie celebratory receptions and dinner. Private fund raising and increased levels of funded research have been absolutely essential to maintaining excellence at UF since the governor and the Legislature have drastically reduced state support of higher education in the last five years. Apparently they intend to continue the downward spiral.
It is essential that the O’Connell Center be repaired and refurbished — internally and externally — so it can continue to serve as the only major indoor assembly facility at UF, the only Association of American Universities member in the State of Florida.