UF Named Facilities
Stephen C. O'Connell Center
Stephen C. O'Connell was born in West Palm Beach in 1916, attending public school there and in Titusville. He attended the University of Florida, serving as sophomore class president and president of the student body, a member of Florida Blue Key, and Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. O'Connell received his B.S.B.A and L.L.B degrees in Business Administration and Law in 1940.
After a brief period of private law practice, O'Connell accepted a civilian appointment as director of physical training for the Third Air Force at Tampa, FL, entering active duty with the onset of World War II. O'Connell married upon his return after the war, also becoming active in the Democratic Party. He was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by Governor LeRoy Collins, later being named Chief Justice.
O'Connell was selected as President of the University of Florida in 1967, the first alumnus to hold the position.
Campus unrest was reaching its peak nationwide, and numerous demonstrations, both peaceful and militant, were held. Faculty-administration relations were also tested during this period. The University of Florida had integrated in 1958 without violence or with little protest. By fall of 1970, though, there were still only 343 black students enrolled and many were foreign students. A sit-in at the president's office by the Black Student Union in April, 1971 culminated in the arrest of sixty-six students. When O'Connell refused to grant total amnesty to the demonstrators, approximately a third of the black student population and several black faculty members left the University.
Perhaps his greatest achievement was the reorganization of the Alumni Association and the creation of an Office of Development staffed by professional fundraisers. The result has been the enrichment of the University's endowment fund.
In 1975, O'Connell's successor, Robert Q. Marston, submitted plans for a sports arena and activities center. Construction was completed in 1980, and the Stephen C. O'Connell Student Activities Center was dedicated in 1981 in recognition of O'Connell's service to his alma mater. The "O'Dome" is the site of Gator basketball games as well as other sporting events and a venue for entertainment programs. President O'Connell announced his retirement on June 28, 1973. After stepping down, O'Connell returned to his home and law practice in Tallahassee, where he remained active with the University of Florida. He died on April 14, 2001 at the age of 85.
The O'Connell Center (also known as the O'Dome) is the showplace for college basketball in the state of Florida. UF basketball teams consistently sell out their season tickets, attracting more than 11,000 fans per game.
In the summer of 1998, the O'Connell Center underwent a $10 million facelift, which resulted in a new roof and upgraded sound and lighting systems. Subsequent improvements to the concessions, restrooms and entrances occurred the following year, as did the installation of two state-of-the-art Daktronics scoreboards.
Not only home to basketball, the O'Connell Center also houses an indoor track and field facility, one of the fastest swimming pools in the world, a gymnastics area, dance studio, martial arts room, basketball practice facilities, and strength and conditioning facilities. The facility also hosts a multitude of other sporting, entertainment, academic, and business activities, including concerts, Disney shows, conventions, and SEC and NCAA Championship events.