In early October, I was honored to go on a behind the scenes tour of “The Swamp.”
Its official name is Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Now, that’s a mouth full. Steve Spurrier was officially added to the name in 2016 when the University of Florida Board of Trustees approved to add the icon’s name.
The stadium was originally built in 1930 with a capacity of about 22,000. It has been expanded, renovated and enhanced in its nearly 90-year history. The Swamp is also the largest stadium in Florida and the 12th largest stadium in American college football. While the seating capacity is listed as 88,548, it often surpasses 90,000 people for home games.
I never understand this fluctuation in people, until I went on this tour. I knew the suites could hold varying levels of people, but there are few other areas such as the Holloway Touchdown Terrace and the F Club located in the north end zone and the Evans Champions Club on the west side. These have more open spaces and seating that can accommodate up to hundreds of fans.
Our tour started in the Champions Club and touring a few of the suites. I was at UF when the suite was newly renovated. I was fortunate to work at a company who had a suite and was invited to watch a few of the games in its suite, as a college student!
We toured a suite of long-time Gator supporter, Stumpy Harris. He is known amongst UF alumni and has been a dedicated supporter of Florida athletics. His suite was decorated with a beautiful mural and great memorabilia.
The other suite was visited was the President’s Suite. This is only available to those lucky fans who get a personal invite from the UF President. I am still waiting for my invite, President Fuchs!
This suite holds 200+ fans, has full service catering including Edy’s ice cream bar and barista and features some of the best views of the field.
The North End Zone seating was added in the early 1990s. The club seating and luxury suites were added in 2003. This is now known as the Holloway Touchdown Terrace and includes club seating and luxury suites.
This is an area of the stadium I haven’t been to before this tour. It is a great way to watch the game with a catered buffet, air condition, free wi-fi, and kid-friendly areas. You can watch the game inside the club area and watch on the numerous TVs or choose to go outside to the north terrace to mingle and network with other fans.
What’s unique about the Swamp is that it is open to the public nearly all the time. It is only closed when they are preparing for a game. This means that the students and other fans can go inside the stadium and onto the field any time. As a student, I often ran the stadium seats and toured the field with family and friends.
However, to go onto the field on the morning of a game day is just another experience altogether. The field was painted for the game. The broadcast teams were setting up. This game was broadcasted on CBS, but SEC Nation was on campus that day too, so there were multiple production teams. There were also the equipment crews setting up the cooling seats and the Gatorade stations.
There was an anticipation of excitement in the air. I could even feel beneath my feet through the flawlessly kept grass of Florida Field.
Pump Me Up
Our tour concluded with the athlete’s weight room. This isn’t your regular gym. There are countless rows of equipment.
There is also tradition and inspiration at every turn. From inspiring quotes to historical leaders, it would hard not to get pumped up in this room!
Bringing Back Tradition
There is a huge Gator logo on the floor just inside the entrance of the weight room. It is roped off and a no-no for anyone to walk on it. It is so that the athletes show respect and honor to be able to be a Gator.
This has been a tradition for many years but apparently was more lapsed during our previous coach’s time here. I for one, like bring back the tradition and the results it may be bringing!
Needless to say, that just going on this tour would be a highlight for any day. However, our Gators went on to beat then #5 LSU 27-19. I like to think that we brought a little luck to the field that day!