ATHENS — The new green turf went down in Georgia’s indoor facility several weeks ago. A large banner of Todd Gurley also has been posted on the wall, set to be joined by other banners. A video board is up too. The field goal posts, which hang from the ceiling, are ready to have footballs kicked through.
“It looks fantastic,” said Georgia receiver Javon Wims, who has peeked his head in to get a look. But peeking in is all the Bulldogs have been able to do to this point, and may be all they can do until the new year.
The facility, budgeted at $30.2 million, is nearly ready, and good weather and good construction work moved things fast enough that the Bulldogs being able to practice in it this month hasn’t been ruled out. But time is running out, with Georgia’s last practice in Athens coming Wednesday.
Head coach Kirby Smart answered “I sure hope so” when asked Thursday if the team could get in there, but sounded skeptical, pointing out that the building still has to be up to code in order for a full-fledged practice to occur.
“We’re trying to get to where we can do some walk-throughs in there,” Smart said. “We can’t practice in there. They don’t have everything complete, but we hope to be able to use it just for inclement weather and things like that. And they’re working with us, the construction people.”
Whatever the case, the fact the much-awaited building is almost done is sweet relief to those who have been around the program for awhile.
It was more than two years ago that Jeremy Pruitt, then the defensive coordinator, had his famous post-practice media session belaboring the lack of an indoor facility. Pruitt said competitors used it against Georgia in recruiting, saying it raised the question of how much the school was committed to the football program.
“It’s always been talked about,” junior tight end Jeb Blazevich said, smiling. “Recruiting it was, ‘Oh we don’t need one here.’ Then I get here and everyone’s like, ‘Oh we need one.’ So it’s always been talked about.”
Whether it was Pruitt or not, the school finally swung into action, and ground was broken last year. The facility is adjacent to the team’s existing facility, and construction meant the team had to use alternate outdoor fields this entire year. But given the reason, everyone accepted the daily bus rides.
“To see that finally come to fruition, it’s awesome,” Blazevich said. “We need one. Especially playing in the SEC, especially in recruiting, and just getting through practices.”
This year it hasn’t actually rained that much, so the team wouldn’t have needed to use it much. (The team may have gone indoors during some hot stretches, in order to avoid fatigue.) But Blazevich remembered two years ago when it rained much more, resulting in some trips to the Atlanta Falcons’ facility in Flowery Branch, or just not practicing at all.
“It would rain here like crazy, and then we would go someplace where it was warm and sunny and no clouds in the sky,” Blazevich said. “So it just helps you better prepare for the atmosphere you’re going to get. And just the kind of atmosphere you’re going to be working with.”
That no longer should be an issue, starting in 2017. Erase one more disadvantage Georgia football had working against it for years.
“That’s going to be a huge advantage to us,” Wims said. “Because we won’t have any weather delays, we won’t have any canceled practice, we can always get our work in. So I think that’s going to be a huge advantage.”