Gators are already feeling the effects of new Heavener Football Training Facility
Sunday marked move-in day for the Gators at the all-new, $85 million James W. Heavener Football Training Facility, which has been under construction since the summer of 2020, for the first time as a team. It garnered rave reviews from gamers, like a kid in a candy store.
The space will be a focal point of Florida’s recruiting discourse now that it has a facility that can go along with the nations major programs. The opener comes amid a hot streak on Florida’s recruiting track, which could further build momentum.
“A a lot of other elite teams across the country have a very impressive setup and we just matched or surpassed a lot of them,” redshirt sophomore Trent Whittemore said. “So it will have an effect for sure.”
Efficiency has been the consistent phrase with all the new bells and whistles at the resort. Along with the state-of-the-art additions, the fundamental need to move every key program location under one roof will mean streamlined workouts, meetings, and all team-wide activities.
Florida head coach Billy Napierin his first speech since moving in on Sunday, insisted on this particular point.
“I also think it’s going to help our organization from an efficiency perspective,” Napier said. “We even saw that today, didn’t we? The time that we will be able to save in relation to the transitions between the different sites, the different events with the team.
The training center has a new sleep recovery room, where players can find sanctuary in the form of a sleep pod between their many obligations, helping Florida optimize their time by facilitating the ability to create a internal quality sleep. It’s a feature of the setup that has already resonated with players.
“You take a nap for about 20 minutes, but it’s like you’ve slept for four hours,” said Trey Dean III, security manager. “Coach Napier puts in stuff like that, it’ll help us.”
The locker room, although not a designated sleep station, will also be able to facilitate rest with the inclusion of reclining seats at each locker. It’s an addition that comes with wireless charging stations and ventilated seat cushions.
“I could go lay in my locker and close my eyes for about 30 minutes before practice,” Whittemore said. “So it’s a great thing to have and very spacious, and as I said (it’s) one of the nicest facilities in the country, so we’re very grateful for that.”
The facility also eliminates a rarely mentioned but detrimental aspect of the previous facility: travel time to and from the stadium and training ground. That’s a trip that equates to 36 minutes round trip, Napier surmised. The squad veterans, who have grown accustomed to the awkward pilgrimage over the years, had a final moment of reflection during their march on Saturday ahead of the squad scrimmage, which in theory marked their last trip from the stadium offices to the covered installation.
“I’ve walked to the training ground many times,” Whittemore said. “I was just used to it, so honestly, I was just walking with my buddies for practice. So it’s going to be weird not walking for practice today.
These upper classes have been waiting for the training complex for much of their time in Gainesville and are finally seeing it come to fruition. The facility has been under construction since 2016, which means many of them were likely told about the resort when they were recruited. Some were recruited based on renderings, which went through revisions but were ultimately successful.
“It was a dream come true for sure,” Whittemore said. “I think it’s been in the works for a while, so the players are super excited to finally be here, it was really cool this morning, everyone stopped for the day’s work at the facility, we have it all there. It’s super convenient and like I said, we’re just grateful to everyone who made it possible.
The movie theater will provide schematic benefits to the team beyond the ability to simply rewatch the game tape from the previous session or contest. Along with the standard theater-style seating, the room offers a new feature rarely seen across the country: a separate space to project a model of the pitch onto the floor, where players can directly work out lineups and positions based on that. they just discussed in the movie theater.
Away from football, the resort also has facilities for the “GatorMade” program, a system launched in 2021 that helps former players build their careers after football.
“Everything (Napier) has put into this facility is going to help us not just be a better player, but a better man,” Dean said. “I know all of his staff are there, so we can find every office no matter who we need at any time of the day.”
The Florida Training Complex will also have positive effects on the rest of the Florida Athletic Department. With nearly nine figures of money invested in the facility, Napier said every athletic program on campus will be able to use the facility.
“The great thing about Heavener Center is that it’s going to be used by all student-athletes,” Napier said. “The 21 sports here at the University of Florida are going to be able to use the indoor and outdoor lounges. They’re going to be able to use the nutritional performance center.
The team moved out of the hotel they were staying in during the first two weeks of fall training on Sunday, returning to their permanent living arrangements as the focus now shifts to preparing for the regular season. Like the team, the facility itself will continue to prepare for the season in the coming weeks.
For now, the venue favors the kind of competitive fire that Florida has been looking for. Not on the grill, but on the indoor basketball court – one of the many conveniences players can enjoy when they’re not benefiting from the many development and recovery tools now available to them.
“I’m sure they’ll be intense,” Whittemore said of potential pickup games at the resort. “I don’t know if Coach Napier will want them to be intense, but they could be quite irritable there, so I’m excited for that.”