UGA athletics board approves $90.2M for upgrades, including to Sanford Stadium

Matt Brachowski (L) shows a rendition of the new southside tower addition to the south side of Sanford Stadium during a slide-show presentation to the UGA Athletics board Thursday at the Ritz Carlton Lodge at Lake Oconee in Greensboro. (Photo by Chip Towers/ctowers@ajc.com)

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Matt Brachowski (L) shows a rendition of the new southside tower addition to the south side of Sanford Stadium during a slide-show presentation to the UGA Athletics board Thursday at the Ritz Carlton Lodge at Lake Oconee in Greensboro. (Photo by Chip Towers/ctowers@ajc.com)

GREENSBORO – Sanford Stadium is adding more than 200 toilets.

The UGA Athletic Association board of directors Thursday approved $90.2 million for two new construction projects, one to widen the southside concourse and add a vertical tower at Sanford Stadium and the other to build a new indoor court facility at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

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But it’s the addition of more than 200 toilets at the football stadium – the vast majority of them for women – that will likely be best received by the Bulldogs’ fans. That has long been a complaint for UGA patrons attending games at the 92,726-seat stadium.

Matt Brachowski, UGA’s associate athletic director for facilities, said the lower-level southwest corner of the stadium has not undergone extensive infrastructure improvements since the original facility was dedicated in 1929.

Construction in that area, which will begin immediately after the conclusion of the 2022 season, will widen the original 10½-foot South 100 concourse to 23 feet and, in the process, add 81 additional toilets in one expansive new women’s bathroom alone.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a restroom this big,” Brachowski said during a 15-minute slide presentation to the board.

The project also will add 48 men’s toilets and three family restrooms to that end of the stadium.

Of course, more bathrooms were a mere fringe benefit of the massive construction project, which will be undertaken simultaneous to an ongoing project at the chemistry building immediately behind the stadium paralleling Field Street.

The primary impetus was to move media out of their current location. The Dan Magill Press Box, which extends between the 30-yard lines on the South club level, will be converted to premium-seating space for donors. Reporters will be moved to the top of a multi-story tower in the southwest corner. Restrooms and concession areas for the 300 level also will be included in the new addition, which will be connected to Gillis Bridge via a plaza featuring a new gate for entry and exit. That will expand to 21 the number of entry points for Sanford Stadium.

Georgia is undergoing these two massive building projects amid uncertain financial times and increasing difficulties acquiring and receiving materials and goods. The Bulldogs announced that the football stadium project will cost $63.5 million to complete and the indoor tennis facility will cost $27.6 million.

“You want to be first-class in everything you do, right?” UGA Athletic Director Josh Brooks said. “But as you talk about any and all of the facilities we’re talking about, the challenge is finding efficiencies, and that’s why we’re deliberate about the process of getting that advance, locking in costs in advance as much you can because of there’s a natural escalation. I’ve talked to ADs across the country. It’s impacting projects everywhere. But thankfully we’ve had phenomenal support from our donor base that’s allowed us to keep raising money and to do projects like the indoor tennis facility, which is fully funded.”

Not coincidentally, Ford Williams, UGA’s associate AD for fundraising and major gifts, announced a new five-year, $300 million fundraising campaign for UGA athletics will launch this summer. Williams said the Bulldogs have raised more than $200 million to fund athletics construction projects in the last five years through the Magill Society donor group.

“We’re moving into an era of transformational change that will have a trickle-down effect,” Williams told the board. “The biggest thing for us is the people we care deeply about, the student-athletes, the coaching staffs, we’ve got support staff. We need to have an investment in them, from an endowment perspective and from an opportunity to support the program and from a leadership perspective.”

Williams said the indoor tennis project already has been fully funded through donations and pledges.

Also Thursday, the athletic board heard a report from President Jere Morehead, an academic report from faculty athletics representative David Shipley and an AD’s report from Brooks.

The board meeting continues Friday with report from treasurer Ryan Nesbit. He is expected to ask the board to approve a record $165 million budget for Fiscal Year 2023, which begins July 1.