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Saturday, April 20, 2024

While the Northeastern US is home to the most avid lacrosse following, UF is hoping it can bring some of that passion down south as Gainesville will soon be home to one of the sport's finest facilities.

The new home of the UF women's lacrosse team, scheduled to be completed Saturday, is shaping up to be one of the best college lacrosse stadiums in the country.

Some of the aspects that help set this stadium apart include the fact that it will be used only for the lacrosse team, and the team will have its own locker room, training room and equipment room.

"It's the No. 1 lacrosse facility in the country," UF women's lacrosse coach Amanda O'Leary said. "We have the ability to bring in recruits and wow them. The facility is just completely self-sufficient."

It will be located directly across from the Southwest Recreation Center and will feature three fields. One will be used for lacrosse games, and the second is a practice field for the team. The final field will be used as a practice field for the UF soccer team.

When it came down to picking a location for the facility, there weren't many choices.

"It was the only land on campus that was planned long-term for recreational sports or athletics," said University Athletic Association Associate Director of Operations Bryan Flood.

About 155 parking spaces have been added on the north end of the site to alleviate some of the parking trouble caused by the softball stadium and Southwest Rec.

According to the UAA, the entire project is costing about $15 million, and it is being financed solely by private funds raised by the UAA and Gators boosters.

O'Leary, who came to UF after 14 seasons at Yale, had to share the women's lacrosse stadium with the men's lacrosse and soccer teams at her former job. But in Gainesville, she is getting the opportunity to begin the program's inaugural season in her own facility.

"They have exceeded all of my expectations," she said. "They give you everything you need to be successful here, where at other schools you are sort of scratching for funds."

The first game is set for Feb. 20, 2010, as the Gators will send out 24 freshmen to face Jacksonville. But O'Leary will not let the young roster be an excuse for a subpar season.

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"The precedent has been set within the sports. It's just high-quality athletics here," she said. "We are just going to go out and do our best to represent and keep that bar rising."

After being hired on June 22, 2007, it has been a long process for O'Leary to get to this point. But now that the first game is rapidly approaching, she looks back fondly on the development of the program.

"You can't even put into words everything that has gone into the process that has led to this point," she said. "I don't have a word to describe it. I'm just sort of at a loss for words."

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