TALLAHASSEE -- At long last, Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles will have their August dreams come true. The indoor practice facility that had for so long seemed so far away is just a matter of months -- and a few nails and bricks -- away from being reality.
"It was just a dream when Fisher got here," FSU board of trustee member and former trustee chairman Andy Haggard said. "It was a dream, a thought process and then all of a sudden, it came through."
Late Saturday morning, hours before the 10th-ranked Seminoles (10-1) squared off with No. 4 Florida (10-1) in the 57th meeting of the longtime in-state rivalry, FSU held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the construction of the $13.5 million facility.
School administrators, members of Seminole Boosters, Inc. and key financial contributors to the project donned gold hard hats and picked up garnet-colored shovels. Posing for pictures, the group simulated the shoveling of dirt to signify the groundbreaking.
Construction officially begins next weekend, after the Seminoles conclude practices for next Saturday's ACC championship against Georgia Tech in Charlotte, N.C. The hope is that the facility will be completed -- along with new dorms for freshmen football players -- by next August.
"It's a great day when you realize just how tangible this gift is," school president Eric Barron said.
Businessman and longtime FSU donors Al and Judy Dunlap were the lead contributors for the facility. The Ocala-based couple donated $5 million to the venture. In all, $23 million was raised through a fund spearheaded by Larry Strom.
The $23 million will be paid over time to the fund established, outgoing Seminole Boosters president Andy Miller said.
"It's great for Semionle football and recruiting and it's a wonderful thing," Dunlap said of the facility. "Football has always been very, very important to me."
Dunlap played at West Point.
Each August, as the Seminoles are going through preseason practices, freak rainshowers and lightning storms often join them. This year, due to inclement weather, the team was forced to postpone some practices. They even moved three to 5 a.m. in order to dodge the late-afternoon storms that come through North Florida like clockwork near the end of summer.
"What happened was, they changed the rules," said Charlie Barnes, former senior vice president and executive director. "It used to be you walk it off, rub dirt on it. And now they've got some guy named Skippy sitting in a basement in Iowa and when he sees lightning on a screen, everybody's got to get out of the pool."
OK, maybe the situation doesn't play out in quite that comedic of fashion. Still, the fact remains that weather will no longer be an issue for the Seminoles, and their president is proud of that.
"There are very few times in which a lightning storm can bring a smile to your face," Barron said. "But everybody standing out here when that lightning is going on can smile because they know that football team can practice regardless of what's going on outside."
UCF currently is the only BCS school in the state that has an indoor facility. The Seminoles used the building last December when poor weather ahead of the Champs Sports Bowl forced them inside.
The constructing of the building is one that athletics director Randy Spetman called "critical." Barron said that it was important to get the facility built because football is so important to the university.
"Athletics, and football in particular, are a front door to this university," Barron said. "It's the No. 1 reason why our alumni come back."
Fisher is expected to make a pre-recorded statement on the indoor facility at halftime of Saturday's game. He'll appear on the video boards inside Doak Campbell Stadium.
Here are a couple of other pregame notes for you to consume:
---You may have seen this earlier this morning, but in case you didn't ...