ATHENS — Georgia baseball is two years away from completing a facilities upgrade that will make it more competitive with other SEC facilities.
Facilities projects across the nation have been challenged by the current construction complications and inflationary issues.
Still, second-year athletic director Josh Brooks plans for the Bulldogs to have renovated baseball, softball and football stadiums completed in the next two years, in addition to a new indoor tennis facility.
The baseball project, estimated to cost upwards of $30 million in total, will be done in two phases, with a target completion date in January of 2025.
“We’ll start this summer with some underground utility work,”Brooks said, detailing some necessary duct work on the third base line.
“But we’re also looking to see what we can do right now that will have an impact for our student-athletes,” he said. “Maybe we can do something with the lights. We may replace the turf. We may go ahead and remodel the clubhouse.”
The second phase will include a pitching lab and indoor batting cages, in addition to the construction of a baseball building.
Stricklin, who oversees a baseball program that has not made it out of NCAA regional action since 2008, explained last spring the challenges UGA has competing on the recruiting trail.
“(Recruits) come to Foley Field and it’s beautiful, and if they haven’t been to another place, they are overwhelmed by it,” Stricklin said. “But then you go to other places — they’ll knock you out of your chair …. we’re far behind, and we know that.”
Stricklin shared how UGA’s most recent baseball upgrade to the stadium, for $12 million in 2014, was announced the same week Mississippi State announced a new $68 million stadium.
“That’s hard to beat,” Stricklin said. “We’ve lost a lot of kids (in recruiting) over the years based on that.”
Brooks, who has seen $240 million funneled into Georgia football since Kirby Smart was hired in 2016, knows what the baseball program is up against and has been supportive of how Stricklin and his players have maintained a level of competitiveness.
“When I first took the job two years ago I met with Coach Stricklin, and we knew that improvements to Foley Field were important not just for recruiting but also for student-athlete development, right?” Brooks said.
“Because right now our pitchers are practicing their bullpen outdoors, right? So having an indoor pitching lab is important, not to mention the technology that goes along with it, right? And we’ve seen the impact facilities can have on recruiting.
“And, obviously when you look across the league in the SEC, the facilities arms race has gotten pretty competitive across the board. So really, for Coach Stricklin and his staff to really keep growing this program, we thought it was important.”
Brooks said the designs for Foley Field improvements are expected to be completely shortly.
“We’re very close, (and) it’s frustrating for us, it’s frustrating for the coaches in these times of inflation,” Brooks said. “Every time you go back and do pricing, the prices have gone up. The escalation has been record-setting these past couple of years.
“When you get back those numbers, you want to say ‘okay, we can keep raising money but let’s really be efficient in what we’re doing.”
Brooks said UGA softball will also be getting facilities upgrades, to Jack Turner Stadium as well as a new building that will have an indoor practice field which the soccer program can also utilize.
Georgia has continued to have record-breaking fundraising efforts, Brooks said, giving the UGA athletic director optimism the school will continue to provide necessary funds for elite coaches, support programs and facilities in its 21 scholarship sports.