Construction on the Owls’ new football facility is scheduled to begin about the same time students return to campus for the start of the spring semester.
“Supposed to start it, hopefully, January 8th,” FAU president Dr. John Kelly said. “We begin tearing down the wall of the locker room and we go from there.”
FAU announced its intention to build the Schmidt Complex in December of 2014, along with the Schmidt Foundation gift of $16 million toward the $60 million project. When completed the complex will house football offices, a new weight room, an academic center and, eventually, an indoor practice facility. That indoor facility is part of Phase II of the project and, as of yet, is not funded.
The Owls ceremonially broke ground on the project in January, shortly after the hiring of football coach Lane Kiffin, but the Owls have struggled to raise the remaining funds to put actual shovels in the ground. FAU originally hoped to begin construction early in the fall.
Any work done on Jan. 8 will be the first tangible proof that the project has moved forward.
The first piece of construction will entail a bit of a renovation to Howard Schnellenberger Field, expanding the home locker room the Owls currently use only for games to make room for the practice squad players, too. When Phase I is complete, the football team will be able to move from its current home in the Oxley Center to the stadium.
They will be able to practice, at least for the time being, on two outdoor fields created near the stadium, along with inside the stadium.
Kelly called the start of construction a “huge step” for the university.
It will almost certainly aid with recruiting, which is the main focus of the football offices this time of year.
FAU announced the signing of five players on the first day of the early signing period and will likely add about 15 more on Feb. 7 – National Signing Day.
“It gives us a chance to recruit with everybody in the country,” Kelly said. “We’ll have the very latest of everything. We’ll have the best locker rooms. We’ll have training facilities. We’ll have weight rooms. We’ll have academic success. It’s just going to be something everybody looks at and goes, I want to go to school there.”
The timetable for the completion of Phase I of the project is estimated to be about 18 months. A schedule for Phase II has yet to be determined.
“We’re still meeting with people about that, too,” Kelly said.