Kirby Smart: Georgia ‘not done yet’ after dedicating $80M football facility

Georgia coach Kirby Smart, football player Nolan Smith and President Jere Morehead were among several dignitaries who cut the ribbon during a dedication ceremony of the Bulldogs' new football operations addition at the Butts-Mehre Football Complex on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Photo by Chip Towers/ctowers@ajc.com)

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Georgia coach Kirby Smart, football player Nolan Smith and President Jere Morehead were among several dignitaries who cut the ribbon during a dedication ceremony of the Bulldogs' new football operations addition at the Butts-Mehre Football Complex on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Photo by Chip Towers/ctowers@ajc.com)

ATHENS — The Georgia Bulldogs held a dedication ceremony Tuesday for their recently completed $80 million expansion of the Butts-Mehre football complex. That the ceremony was conducted inside the same $31 million indoor practice facility that was dedicated only five years ago says a lot about where UGA Athletics is these days.

The Bulldogs are, in a word, rolling.

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The new 164,000-square-foot football operations addition leaves everyone who sees it with mouths agape. It features a state-of-the-art locker room with custom-built lockers and what the players call “Lamborghini seats.” There is a 210-seat team meeting room and oversized position-group rooms, all outfitted with the latest digital video presentation. The crown jewel is a 24,000-square-foot weight room. It’s size isn’t arbitrary. Georgia’s goal was to have the largest in the country, and now it does.

The operations facility was just the latest in $175 million of new construction projects dedicated to the support of football. That it was completed shortly after Georgia ran down its first national championship in 41 years has understandably enhanced the Bulldogs’ recruiting efforts.

“It's been a catch-up game for us for quite a long time. We feel like we have caught up, but now we have to maintain and continue to grow."

- Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart

But that’s not what it’s all about, coach Kirby Smart insists. He said the main objective is to give Georgia players and coaches everything they need to train and develop at a championship level.

“Today is giving thanks for the facilities we’ve been able to get,” Smart told a crowd that featured fans, donors, state legislators and various dignitaries. “But we can’t be done yet. We will not be complacent. We will not sit idly and let others pass us by. It’s been a catch-up game for us for quite a long time. We feel like we have caught up, but now we have to maintain and continue to grow.”

Three major construction projects have come on line during the seven years that Smart has been the Bulldogs’ football coach. The indoor facility was set to break ground before Smart arrived on the scene in December 2015. A $63 million locker room and recruiting lounge was built into the west end of Sanford Stadium and dedicated in 2018. Now the operations addition to the football complex is 98% completed, with a few minor “punchouts” to be addressed.

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UGA President Jere Morehead and athletic director Josh Brooks each thanked Smart for the vision he brought and the energy he expended into making the new facilities a reality.

“Coach Smart came in with a vision and helped us develop that vision and cast his vision into facilities and what we needed to do to get caught up,” Brooks said. “It was his vision and his leadership that got us to this point.”

Those attending Tuesday’s ceremony were treated to a self-guided tour of the new spaces, with athletic department personnel spread throughout the facility to provide details and answer questions.

Among the speakers was senior outside linebacker Nolan Smith, whom Morehead gleefully introduced as having “sacking Alabama’s quarterback to end the championship game.”

Smith shared his two favorite things about the new facility. “Now I don’t have to share a 27-year-old locker room with coach Smart,” he quipped. Smith also said he was quite partial to “Bones,” the new football-dedicated restaurant located in the center of the facility.

“I call it a little Applebee’s,” Smith said. “I love it. It’s a nice restaurant. There’s always something good cooking in the neighborhood there.”

Recognizing a possible NIL-plug buried within Smith’s comments, Morehead cracked, “I’m sure Applebee’s appreciates the mention.”

The bells and whistles are nice, Smart concluded, but it’s what the team does with them that matters. And he said the Bulldogs are making good use.

“I personally believe this (facility) helped us this season,” Smart said. “Along our championship run, in terms of recovery, in terms of utilizing our weight-room space, in terms of utilizing our connection piece. This wouldn’t be possible without the people in this room. Make no mistake about it. The facilities we’ve built don’t win championships. The people who help support them do.”