UGASports - Full steam ahead for new football facility
football Edit

Full steam ahead for new football facility

On Tuesday, the state Board of Regents made it official–construction of Georgia’s new $80 million football facility can proceed as planned.

Head coach Kirby Smart couldn’t be more pleased.

“It’s a total new football facility, but I’m most excited about the weight room, the team meeting room, the ability to have other meeting rooms, new office space for our coaches, an area for the players to dine and eat, and be able to be over here when they’re not in class,” Smart said during Wednesday’s SEC teleconference. “We’re in a little bit of tight quarters right now, so it’s going to free up some space so that our guys can utilize the facility as much as they need to.

"It’s a big step for us. It’s not going to be an easy project; it’s going to take a little time, but I’m very pleased in them allowing us to have it, and our alumni for helping fund it.”

The renovation will take part in two phases.

Phase 1 will include a 109,600 square foot renovation that will include the new nutrition area, meeting rooms (to 180 seats from the current capacity of 144), showers (expanded to 18 shower=heads from 36), weight room, and coaches’ offices.

The new weight room will be huge, doubling the size of the one currently being used by the football team, going to almost 21,900 square feet.

Renderings of Georgia's new weight room.
Renderings of Georgia's new weight room.

“I think they were all really important," athletic director Greg McGarity told UGASports Wednesday morning. "The locker room was important; the training room being adjacent to the strength and conditioning room like we have, now—it will be greatly enhanced in the new building."

He elaborated on the expansions. "Just in spaces for coaches and support staff to function; I mean, we've been in some areas with five or six people in the same room. But it’s going to be dynamic. I think our staff has done an outstanding job, seeing what other facilities have, and learning from mistakes others have made, and taking advantage of the great things other schools have done.”

Phase 2 will complete the final 28,700 feet of the project. The two-phase plan is being done so coaches and student athletes will not have to be displaced while construction is taking place.

The building itself will be adjacent to the indoor athletic facility. It will be three stories, with the third floor being even with the second floor of the current Butts-Mehre Building.

Construction of Phase 1 will begin in January and last until April of 2021, with Phase 2 completed by January of 2022.

According to McGarity, other sports will benefit as well. For example:

“When football vacates the current locker room, that’s going to open up space to have some non-football areas available, so that’s probably an exciting part of it,” McGarity said. “As football vacates some of the current areas in the Butts-Mehre Building, it’s going to create some opportunities for us to help other programs that need assistance and space.

“Even though we’re building a new training room, the existing training room will stay. The meeting room where the press conferences are held, they'll stay the same and will serve as a general meeting area for non-football meetings. That will happen in Phase 2 of the project.”

McGarity also said that donor responsibility for the project is close to being complete.

“It’s an $80 million project, and it’s a 40-40. Our goal is to pay half of it, and right now, we’re pushing $35 million already,” he said.

McGarity also said the Magill Society, which serves as the leadership fundraising entity under the Georgia Bulldog Club, has raised close to $125 million dollars for the various projects since 2015.

“If we didn't have the donors, we'd have to tell Kirby we just can't do it, or it would have to be much smaller, or we'd have to take on debt. When you take on debt, that means you've got to pay for it so it's on the backs of football and football ticket holders,” McGarity said. “We don't want to that. I saw the face value of Auburn tickets is $140 bucks, so schools have to ask, at what point in time does it become realistic, or unrealistic. If you're doing it, and you don't have that donor support you have here, there's only one way to generate those funds—and that’s debt.”

Foley Field expansion also on the radar

McGarity said the UGA Athletic Association has seen to facility upgrades in other sports already. Golf, tennis, and equestrian are three recent examples.

Foley Field, the baseball home for the Georgia Bulldogs, is also on the radar.

“We’re constantly working with every facility, and what we can do to enhance that, but we've met with Coach (Scott) Stricklin, and we have engaged with consultants on what can we do. So I think the potential to expand seating down the foul lines, and create some areas under the stands, are all options,” McGarity said. “I think from that standpoint, down the road, certainly we're looking at some opportunities to increase seating, maybe double the seating, and focus on more amenities. So, we've got that really for every sport. Softball, we've got some things we'd love to do out there.”

The current capacity at Foley Field currently sits at 3,291.

Moving the stadium to another location is not in the plans.

“Everybody loves this location. It’s central to everything we do, so we’ve really just focused with it being in this area, and if we're able to double the capacity here, that would create a dynamic that probably would fit as our program continues to grow,” McGarity said. “We haven't had to worry about that in the past. But now, we’re to the point where we've always wanted to be.”