ATHENS ― I checked out the construction that’s going on at Sanford Stadium the other day. Pretty impressive.
I’ve always liked the idea of Georgia moving the locker room down to the West End of Sanford Stadium. It’s something I’d heard about for years. Former coach Mark Richt was the first person I heard mention it. He was the one who got the Bulldogs entering the stadium from that end when he started the Dawg Walk in whatever year that was.
Before that, the team used to enter the stadium from the east. It actually was a pretty big deal in the 1970s. Long before all these highly organized “walks” every team in the country seemingly has now, the Bulldogs got off their buses on East Campus Road behind the stadium. That happened to be right in front of the railroad tracks, where hundreds of rowdy Georgia students gathered every home game and would give their team a hearty welcome. Players from that era always talked about what a charge that gave them before games. Legendary defensive coordinator Erk Russell actually dedicated the 1980 season to the “Railroad Track Crowd.”
But the track tradition went away after UGA enclosed the East End and expanded the capacity of Sanford Stadium to 82,122. The Bulldogs kept entering the stadium from that end for years, but to considerably less fanfare.
Now everything should make sense. With the locker room being on the West End, players will get off the buses on Lumpkin Street and can do the Dawg Walk right into their locker room. As it has been, they kept on walking right through the Gate 10 tunnel, through a gate in the hedges and all the way across the field to the locker room underneath the East End grandstands. Not that the Bulldogs aren’t fit enough for a few extra steps before a game, but this will save them at least few hundred or so.
Of course, that’s not really the point of the West End expansion. The point was to keep up with the Joneses of the SEC in recruiting and give their team the same kind of opulent digs for changing clothes and entertaining recruits that the other top teams have. And if you’ve seen the mock-ups that UGA has provided, for $63 million, the Bulldogs will have themselves a quite a nice place to hang out seven to 10 times a year.
That end of the stadium needed some work anyway, and so did the scoreboard, which was scrapped in favor of a new one ― 30 percent bigger, too ― that will be placed 30 feet west of the last one. The design also calls for pushing Gate 10 to the other side of Sanford Bridge and creating some nice big plazas, both on and underneath Sanford Bridge. They’re even adding some restrooms on the ground level, so the fans are even getting a little something out of this, too.
And speaking of the fans, here’s another question that they have posed among all the construction and fuss taking place at Sanford Stadium. Why aren’t there any statues anywhere around there? Wouldn’t this be a good time to erect one or two, with everything ripped up and stripped down to bare?
I never really have understood Georgia’s hesitancy to erect statues. Everybody else seems to do it, and the Bulldogs have a couple of worthy subjects, I’d say. Maybe a Herschel Walker likeness somewhere, or Frank Sinkwich or Charley Trippi.
Athens artist Stan Mullins always has been very outspoken about a concept he calls Crowns of Glory, in which he’d create statues of four of Georgia’s all-time greats to be situated on four different corners of the property that houses Sanford Stadium. I can’t say I disagree with the idea.
Now some people who are critical of Mullins’ work have said it’s not exactly created in the style that should be associated with the university’s stadium. Mullins, of course, did the Vince Dooley statue that’s on the corner of the Vince Dooley Sports Complex on Pinecrest Drive. He also created a statue of Erk Russell for Georgia Southern and a few other places.
I know when I was at Notre Dame in September I saw a lot of statues around there. They were very organized and were all of coaches, each one situated at a particular entrance, which also bears their name. For instance, Gate B is better known as the Ara Parseghian Gate and features a bronze likeness of him there.
It’d certainly be easier for people to find their way around, don’t you think? Somebody could say, “Hey, meet me at the Herschel statue at 2 and I’ll give you those tickets.”
There will be at least one statue at the stadium when it reopens. They’re moving the granite likeness of Uga from the East End to the West End, in conjunction with the locker room. Uga is Georgia’s bulldog mascot.
I guess we know who is the real star of Georgia football.