More improvements coming for Georgia’s Sanford Stadium

Aerial view of University of Georgia's sports facilities including new indoor Athletic Facility and new $80 million football operations building (center) on Friday, June 11, 2021. The UGA's athletic department simply is committed to too many other facility projects that have precedence at the moment. Most notable is the $80 million football operations building that has been added to the Butts-Mehre complex. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Aerial view of University of Georgia's sports facilities including new indoor Athletic Facility and new $80 million football operations building (center) on Friday, June 11, 2021. The UGA's athletic department simply is committed to too many other facility projects that have precedence at the moment. Most notable is the $80 million football operations building that has been added to the Butts-Mehre complex. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Expansions also planned for UGA’s baseball and softball stadiums

ATHENS -- First-year Georgia Athletic Director Josh Brooks last spring talked about being more transparent about the Bulldogs’ strategic vision of the future. On Friday, Brooks shared some of that vision at the fall meeting of the athletic association’s board of directors.

With the No. 2-ranked Bulldogs’ football season underway, Georgia fans will be most interested to know about plans to expand and improve the South 100 concourse at Sanford Stadium. Part of the original stadium, which opened in 1929, that area long has been difficult for fans to negotiate during the Bulldogs’ biggest games. Brooks said a recently completed feasibility showed that by demolishing the bathrooms and concession stands and moving them to another area, they can widen the concourse from 10 to 23 feet. Simultaneously, Georgia will construct new bathrooms and concession stands at either Gates 2 and 9 on either end of the concourse.

Meanwhile, the new construction in the southwest corner will provide the foundation for Phase II of that project, which will be a new press box. The existing Dan Magill Press Box on the south side extends between the 30-yard lines on the the club level. That area will be converted to premium seating for donors.

Brooks couldn’t provide a precise timeline but projected that construction would begin late in 2022.

“That would be the goal, but I wouldn’t want to put a back end on it (for completion) because too many things have to happen,” Brooks said. He said UGA does not plan to raise funds for the project, but rather will pay for it through loans and existing reserves.

On that note, Brooks reported that the ongoing $80 million Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall expansion project that is adding 165,000 square feet in football facilities has been fully funded through pledges from members of UGA’s Magill Society donor group. Phase I of the new construction has been completed, and football coaches, players, trainers and strength-and-conditioning have moved into the facility. Phase II, which includes additional offices and meeting rooms, should be completed in 2022.

Football was not the only sport to feel the athletic association’s love Friday. Brooks announced plans to expand and improve Georgia’s baseball and softball stadiums. Feasibility studies are underway to explore improving athletes’ space underneath the first- and third-base sides of both baseball’s Foley Field and softball’s Jack Turner Stadium, while also adding much needed seating to those facilities. At capacities of just over 3,000 for baseball and 1,300 for softball, those stadiums are among the smallest for their respective sports in the SEC.

“We want the best of both worlds,” Brooks said. “We don’t want to lose what’s special about Foley, but we add onto the seating where more people can come and we can have more spaces for the student-athletes. I think we can accomplish both.”

These two are the latest endeavors in what has been a massive amount of spending on facilities by Georgia over the past five years. The Bulldogs have completed $175 million worth of improvements and new construction for football while trying to methodically make improvements in their other 20 men’s and women’s sports.

An already approved project that will raze the current indoor courts at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex and build a new six-court replacement has entered the design phase. The new facility could cost as much as $20 million to construct, but UGA has raised $12 million toward it. A new $8 outdoor tennis grandstand was completed last year.

Meanwhile, as the Georgia football team transitions out of its previous spaces in the Butts-Mehre complex, those areas are being renovated and retrofitted for other sports. The abandoned football locker room, sports-medicine training and strength-and-conditioning areas are in the process of being renovated for the men’s and women’s track and field locker rooms and coaches’ offices. Long housed in Stegeman Coliseum, this will move the team much closer to Spec Towns Track.

“We’re excited to get rolling on all these,” Brooks told the full board, which met at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education for nearly 90 minutes. “So, it’s an exciting time. I think we really have a chance to transform a lot of our facilities for the next few years. I’m excited about what’s been made possible by our donors and our development staff.”

Probably the biggest news unveiled by Brooks had to do with the new hot dogs that will be for sale at Sanford Stadium on Saturday. A longtime operations executive in athletics, one of Brooks first-year initiatives was to provide better and more affordable concessions at Georgia’s events.

He is excited to introduce to fans Saturday the Bulldogs’ new $2.50 hot dog.

“I can’t reveal brand,” Brooks said. “But it is a great hot dog. In the concessions world, they talk about how many hot dogs per pound. So whatever that ratio is, it’s almost double in size. ... It’s a bigger, thicker hot dog.”

Improvements all around at UGA.