ATHENS — Georgia baseball is less than two years away from a level playing field in the SEC via major facilities upgrades coming to Foley Field.
Coach Scott Stricklin, who guided the Bulldogs to a No. 6 seed in the SEC Baseball Tournament and No. 11 national RPI rating, said the plans for the stadium are expected to be formalized and officially released this fall.
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Georgia has hired the same architects that did Arkansas baseball’s most recent state-of-the-art updates to Baum-Walker Stadium, a $27 million project.
UGA has not released any estimates or budget numbers for the baseball project.
These are competitive times in the SEC baseball world, as even with the pending improvements, the Bulldogs might still be chasing No. 1-ranked Tennessee.
The Vols have a facilities upgrade plan with $56.8 million aimed toward its baseball stadium for “construction of additional amenities including a new indoor infield facility along with expanded site improvements,” while enhancing existing spaces and services, per KnoxNews.com.
“Lindsey Nelson Stadium does rank among our priority projects, and we are working as quickly as the state’s framework allows,” Spokesperson Tom Satkowiak said. “State approval in July is the next important step toward the progress we hope to make for baseball as well as several other programs.”
The Foley Field renovations, while more modest, will serve the players first by focusing on “Player Development Areas,” such as an improved pitching lab, batting cages and the introduction of a weight room.
The baseball team has had to schedule lifting sessions to share its weight room with other sports, something that can be challenging with the players’ having varying academic and travel schedules.
There will also be new stadium plaza areas for fans to mill around, along with premium seating additions and the return of “Kudzi Hill” for students.
Stricklin said he looks forward to being able to have his coaching offices on the Foley Field property as part of a three-story baseball building, rather than walk down the street for meeting in Stegeman Coliseum, home of the basketball team.
Georgia softball facilities will also get updates in the spring of 2023, said Stricklin, when asked how the state’s high school programs could produce so much talent but not transfer that into elite success at the state’s premier athletics school.
Success is relative, and so is the quality and efficiency of facilities.
“They come to Foley Field and it’s beautiful, and if they haven’t been to another place, they are overwhelmed by it,” Stricklin said on Monday. “But then you go to other places — they’ll knock you out of your chair …. we’re far behind, and we know that.”
To put it into perspective, Stricklin shared how UGA’s most recent baseball upgrade to the stadium, for $12 million, was announced the same week Mississippi State announced a new $70 million stadium.
“That’s hard to beat … we’ve lost a lot of kids (in recruiting) over the years based on that,” Stricklin said.
“That’s why we are excited about the step in the direction of doing a major upgrade to the stadium.”
Stricklin said there are several moving parts, including a tight timeline of events — from June of 2023, to February of 2024 — as well as the stadium’s relatively tight footprint to work within.
The ninth-year Georgia head coach was asked to prioritize the Foley Field needs and didn’t hesitate to put the player’s needs at the top of the list, even while sharing the seating capacity could increase to around 5,000.
“The first priorities are player development areas: pitching lab and hitting tunnels,” Stricklin said. “We’re going to do a new weight room facility here, nutrition center, player lounges, things like that.
“When recruits come in here, they’ll say, ‘Hey, this is a place I know I can better, and players are important.’ "