Bathouse on the campus of the University of Florida is not the most
noteworthy project to come out of this office, but the story behind
the bathouse is quite interesting.
The University of Florida, Bathouse, has watched vigil over Lake Alice
on UF's campus for the last 10 years. Originally, the bats lived in
the attic of Johnson Hall, which, years ago, burnt down; leaving bats
the entire campus to call home. But UF did not put out the welcome
Eventually, the bats had made a home out of the tennis
stadium bleachers. The University of Florida's Athletic Association
needed to evict them somehow. The bats just happened to roost, if bats
actually did roost, right above general concessions leaving less than
pleasant evidence of their presence. To those it concerned, the bats
needed to go. However, due to their beneficial nature as Mother
Nature's insect exterminators, this would prove a difficult task. They
are protected by the state as a vital link in the food chain--not to
mention, Gainesville had probably, unknowingly, grown quite accustomed
to having a less than average insect population--which would
undoubtedly skyrocket if the bats just went away. Clearly, a plan was
necessary, and a solution was finally proposed: A new home would be
built for the bats.
To implement this project only required 2 things: some
type of "ideal" bathouse design, and a general cooperation on the part
of the bats. The University of Florida Athletic Association assured
the necessary money, but there was no clue how or what to construct
for these bats. Enter: Hunter McKellips Associates Architects. Bill
Hunter, having consulted a group of experts, came up with a perfect
design. In fact, it was big enough to house upward of 400,000 bats.
Thus, it was erected, and opened and has been there ever since. But
there is more to the story. . .
Its stands that bats would need to know about their new
UF home but letting them know would not be easy. The first step
required an application of guano all over the underside of the
bathouse. The next step required the sedation of the bats and
transporting them to the new bathouse. Finally, the bats were put
inside the house, where they stayed for one day. But there is still
more to this story. . .
It turns out that bats were none too interested in
being handled by people or to be installed in a building which,
although had been frosted with fresh bat droppings, still had
that "new-bathouse" smell. The upside was that the bats did not
return to their old haunts on campus, but did not return to the
bathouse either. The athletic association had evidently erected a 40
foot "bat-scarecrow." But with the bats gone, no one could complain.
About a year later, after the smell of humans and construction went
away, the bats came back. Today, their number is estimated at 60,000.