- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 12, 2013

CORAL GABLES, FLA. (AP) - Miami is planning a $7 million project to continue upgrading its athletic facilities, including a new lighted, artificial turf football practice field.

The Hurricanes will unveil what they are calling the Football Victory Fund later this week. Details of the initiative were obtained in advance by The Associated Press. It’s possible that at least some of the upgrades may be in place by next season, though a firm timetable won’t be known until fundraising actually begins.

“This university is taking a big step forward,” Miami quarterback Stephen Morris said. “Miami really hasn’t had a lot. That’s what we’ve been built on was just hard work. Now that you add all these nice facilities, it says a lot about the program and I think it’ll be great.”

Miami’s existing grass practice fields often get noticeably chewed up during football seasons _ a combination of both severe climate and wear-and-tear _ and a lack of lighting now somewhat limits when the Hurricanes can schedule practices. School officials say the planned field would simulate the game turf at about one-third of current Atlantic Coast Conference stadiums, plus would reduce wear on the grass facilities.

Other planned upgrades include a the construction of a new dining area for Miami’s 400 athletes and four outdoor cold-water recovery plunge pools that school officials say are “necessary for the hot and humid climate of South Florida.”

The school is calling the planned facilities “the most pressing needs of our football program.”

“We have to invest in our football program with the needed resources to continue building champions,” athletic director Blake James said in a copy of the document that will be sent to donors and others.

Earlier this year, the school opened the $15 million Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence, a facility that includes team meeting rooms, conference rooms, academic areas, locker room space and training facilities. That was the first significant step in a plan to revamp many of the Hurricanes’ existing facilities, which were widely criticized as outdated for many years.