Georgia State makes progress for season opener

The days before Georgia State plays its first football game against Shorter on Sept. 2 are counting down.

For two years Georgia State officials have prepared for the game much the way that parents prepare for the arrival of a newborn, and now they're in the final stretch. There is ongoing construction of a new field house. The university has sales representatives working the phones and going to businesses in the community in an effort to sell game and season tickets. And players are taking summer classes to keep their eligibility and working out to keep their strength.

Time is running out, but Georgia State officials say everything is on schedule.

“We’ve seen progress every day since we got here,” coach Bill Curry said. “There is always some kind of way we can get better every day, and the key is how do we do something to get better.”

For Georgia State, work isn’t just a four-letter word, it’s a way of life as the university prepares for the final stages of getting the football program ready.

Time especially is important when it comes to the multi-million-dollar field house.

The field house is the last major facility to complete before the first game. Construction on the facility began in March, around the beginning of spring practices, and the hope is that it will be completed by Aug. 1, in time for the start of preseason practices.

James Greenwell, executive senior associate athletics director, said work on the field house is on schedule.

Safety Brandon Jones is amazed at the progress.

“I can’t wait to see it fully finished,” Jones said. “It amazes me at the rate [workers] are moving. Sometimes I sit back and wonder if I can help.”

The field house is important for a variety of reasons. Among them is that without the facility, players are forced to dress in the athletics department on campus before and after practices, a major inconvenience.

“The field house is critical to the program,” Greenwell said. “Having a facility that provides our football program with everything they need to train our student-athletes and do it with the student-athletes' time management in mind is crucial for the long-term success of the program.”

Another crucial element is having fans in the seats for home games at the Georgia Dome.

While teams are never completely satisfied with the state of their ticket sales, Georgia State representatives like the progress they have made.

Todd Reeser, senior associate athletics director for development, said the university had sold 2,000 tickets to the season opener as of mid-June.

“The ideal target we would like to be at is anywhere from 5,000 season-ticket holders and about 5,000 students at the game,” Reeser said.

The university opened a ticket-sales center at the Sports Arena on campus in June. The sales staff began with seven workers, but has increased to 15.

The sales staff has used advertisements, such as billboards, and cold-calling of fans and alumni to try to generate interest.

“It’s a combination of getting the word out and educating people on how to get tickets,” Reeser said.

Georgia State had an attendance of 3,192 for its spring game in April, which was about 1,100 more fans than officials expected.

“I feel like we’re where we need to be, but you always would like to be ahead of the curve,” Reeser said. “We don’t have a lot of time, but we’re not in panic mode yet.”

One thing that has excited Georgia State officials, especially Curry, is the dedication and attention to detail of the players.

They have organized two groups of 30 players per day to participate in weightlifting and training sessions.

The training sessions not only have kept the players in shape, but they have increased team unity and morale, which already was high in anticipation of the season opener.

“We’re really coming together as a team,” center Ben Jacoby said. “We’re starting to mesh.”