What UGA got for $175 million in football facilities spending

Aerial photo shows Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia in Athens on Friday, June 11, 2021. With a $25 million expansion completed in 2003 and an additional $8 million in 2004, Sanford Stadium added a second upper deck on the north side and 27 new north side SkySuites bringing the new stadium capacity to 92,746 - the fifth largest on-campus stadium in the country. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Aerial photo shows Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia in Athens on Friday, June 11, 2021. With a $25 million expansion completed in 2003 and an additional $8 million in 2004, Sanford Stadium added a second upper deck on the north side and 27 new north side SkySuites bringing the new stadium capacity to 92,746 - the fifth largest on-campus stadium in the country. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The University of Georgia Athletic Association has spent $175 million on more than 350,000 square feet of football facilities projects since Kirby Smart was hired as head coach in December 2015. Here’s a breakdown of what the Bulldogs have gotten for all of that money:

INDOOR PRACTICE FACILITY

When completed: January 2017.

Cost: $31 million.

Size: 102,306 square feet.

Significance and scope of project: The need for a full-scale indoor practice facility for use by the football team in inclement weather was long discussed and debated at Georgia. In the fall of 2014, the team’s then-defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt, drew attention to the issue by informing the media that other SEC schools were using the lack of such a facility against the Bulldogs by telling recruits it raised questions about football’s importance at the school.

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Aerial photo shows University of Georgia’s Indoor Athletic Facility (left side) and new $80 million football operations building (right side) on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Aerial photo shows University of Georgia’s Indoor Athletic Facility (left side) and new $80 million football operations building (right side) on Friday, June 11, 2021.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Aerial photo shows University of Georgia’s Indoor Athletic Facility (left side) and new $80 million football operations building (right side) on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The UGA Athletic Association board of directors, which had allocated funds for a design study two months before Pruitt’s comments, approved building the facility in August 2015, near the start of what turned out to be Mark Richt’s final season as the Bulldogs’ head coach. Workers began removing hundreds of tons of dirt from the construction site adjacent to the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall athletics headquarters building in December 2015, just as Smart replaced Richt as head coach. Smart participated in a formal “groundbreaking” ceremony in February 2016.

The facility, which includes a full-sized football field and also can be used by other sports, was “completely funded by private gifts,” UGA said when construction was completed. A year later, the facility was named the William Porter Payne and Porter Otis Payne Indoor Athletic Facility in honor of the Atlanta Olympics CEO and his late father, both former UGA football players. The naming was the result of gifts totaling more than $10 million from friends of the Payne family.

SANFORD STADIUM WEST-END EXPANSION

When completed: August 2018.

Cost: $63 million.

Size: 120,000 square feet of new and improved space.

Significance and scope of project: On the same day as the indoor-practice-facility dedication — Feb. 14, 2017 — the UGA Athletic Association board voted to approve another long-discussed project: the addition of a new game-day locker room and recruiting hospitality lounge on the west end of Sanford Stadium, with $53 million of the cost to be raised from private donations/pledges and the rest from Athletic Association reserves. UGA President Jere Morehead told the board that, between the indoor facility and the west-end project, the football program would be at “a competitive advantage” and would look forward to more success.

Construction, below and behind the west end-zone stands, began in April 2017 and continued for 17 months. The players’ locker room, with 95 spacious individual lockers and a gigantic lighted “G” incorporated into the ceiling in the middle of the room, is nearly double the size of its aged predecessor on the east end of the stadium. The addition also includes a separate locker room shared by the assistant coaches, a separate room for the head coach, a physicians’ exam room, an X-ray room, an equipment room and shower facilities.

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Inside Georgia’s new locker room, recruiting lounge. (Special)

Inside Georgia’s new locker room, recruiting lounge. (Special)

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Inside Georgia’s new locker room, recruiting lounge. (Special)

One floor above the locker room, a sprawling 10,574-square foot lounge is used for hosting recruits and their guests before, during and after games. Consider it another weapon in the ever-escalating college-football recruiting arms race. When the lounge opened in 2018, a scrolling display screen in an entry area greeted recruits with a not-so-subtle message: the names of recent UGA players drafted by the NFL and, in some cases, their considerable career contract values.

Also included in the project were some fan-friendly enhancements of Sanford Stadium: a large game-day entry plaza on the west end, a new main video board and new and updated concession stands and restrooms.

FOOTBALL OPERATIONS FACILITY

When completed: “Phase I” mostly in late spring 2021, “Phase II” scheduled for completion in early 2022.

Cost: $80 million.

Size: 165,000 square feet of new and renovated space, including 136,300 square feet of new space.

Significance and scope of project: This project, a massive expansion of the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall athletics headquarters building, created the new daily home of the football program — “the lifeblood of our program and our future,” as it’s described on the Georgia Bulldog Club website. Current players and recruits have reported being wowed by the new space and its amenities. Smart bragged at SEC Media Days last month: “It wouldn’t be possible without our administration and fan support, but it’s incredible.”

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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). (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Aerial view of University of Georgia's sports facilities including new indoor Athletic Facility and new $80 million football operations building (center). (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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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). (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The facility, adjacent to the outdoor and indoor practice fields, includes a new and much-expanded weight room, which Smart said is the “largest weight room in the country.” The project also includes an expanded locker room, meeting rooms, nutrition area and sports-medicine areas (”the largest athletic training facility that I’ve ever seen,” Smart said).

The project was approved by the Athletic Association board in September 2019. Construction began in January 2020 and continued through the pandemic. The board was told early this year that $71.5 million of the $80 million needed to complete the project had been raised by the department’s development office through donations and pledges.

NEW SANFORD STADIUM LIGHTS

When completed: Summer 2019.

Cost: $1 million.

Significance and scope of project: A new computer-controlled LED lighting system, with the ability to change the effects and colors of the lights (especially to red, naturally), was installed in time for a much-anticipated night game against Notre Dame between the hedges in September 2019.

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Sanford Stadium is bathed in red light to open the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs face Notre Dame Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Athens. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Sanford Stadium is bathed in red light to open the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs face Notre Dame Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Athens.  (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

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Sanford Stadium is bathed in red light to open the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs face Notre Dame Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Athens. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com