marching band

Gator Band members toss dirt to break ground for the new Gator Marching Practice Facility on April 13.

UF’s Gator Marching Band could have a field to call home starting this October.

A groundbreaking ceremony held at 2 p.m. Friday marked the beginning of the construction of the Gator Marching Band Field just south of the Commuter Lot, located at 1273 Gale Lemerand Drive, said Brandon McKinley, the public relations and partnerships specialist at UF’s College of the Arts. The field, formerly known as Pony Field, will have artificial turf, lights, proper drainage and a 5,000-square-foot pavilion, he said.

The new practice field will cost $2.4 million and will be funded by the Office of the Provost and the University Athletic Association, he said.

McKinley, who is a 2017 Gator Marching Band alumnus, said the marching band has rotated practices on different fields because it didn’t have a designated area. In Fall, he said, the band used Norman Field.

“For them to have a facility that really matches the level of excellence they’re already achieving is just really exciting,” McKinley said.

The artificial turf should be able to support repetitive practice marches that tear up natural grass, McKinley said. The pavilion will provide shelter when it rains.

Plans for a second phase of construction include a building with restrooms, an ice machine, workrooms and a space where band members can store their instruments but depend entirely on future private financial support, he said.

The band, which is also called “The Pride of the Sunshine,” has more than 360 members, according to its website.

Michael Toth, a UF mechanical engineering sophomore and trumpet player for the Gator Marching Band, said he chose to live in 2nd Avenue Centre apartments so that he’d be close to Norman Field for practices.

After hearing the announcement for the new facility across campus, Toth still looks forward to practicing in a more even field with less fire ants.

“If the fields are flat, that’s going to be really nice marching,” the 19-year-old said. “I’m excited.”

Contact Robert Lewis at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @Lewis__Robert.

Robert Lewis, a UF journalism sophomore, covers the crime beat for the Alligator. He enjoys spending time with family and friends in his hometown of Miami, Florida. Robert has not let his dream of being funny die, though several friends have urged him to.