ATHENS — I had the pleasure of walking across Georgia’s campus this past Saturday. It’s something I do often with my 10-year-old son, who loves to climb the many magnolias and walk across the top of brick walls and generally scare his dad to death.
On this occasion, though, I was showing around my new partner on the Georgia beat. Mike Griffith, a veteran SEC scribe I’ve known since the early 1990s, is joining the DawgNation team after covering Tennessee for SEC Country the past two years.
Griffith was pretty blown away by a lot that he saw. Having covered Alabama, Auburn, Michigan State and Tennessee over the years, he’s been to Athens and Sanford Stadium many times. But he’d never had the time or opportunity to peruse the state university’s expansive campus, so that opened his eyes to a lot of things he didn’t know existed. For instance, he wasn’t aware of the traditions of the arch or of the chapel bell, didn’t know of the (reclaimed) existence Herty Field and had never taken in the majestic beauty of North Campus and her mighty oaks.
But that’s not what this correspondence is about. We ended up, as almost everyone does who tours campus, at Sanford Stadium. There our southward progress was stopped as Sanford Drive and the bridge by the same name was blocked. The construction that has been waged on the West End project at Sanford Stadium since the end of last season has now completely engulfed the old bridge that has overlooked the Bulldogs’ football field for decades. Workers were on top of, under and on the sides of the lengthy span that connects the two hillsides at Tanyard Creek. They looked like ants rebuilding a nest that had been carelessly kicked by one’s boot.
It looked like there was a lot of work left to be done just 66 days before Georgia kicks off the 2018 season against Austin Peay. But fear not, I’ve been told by people in the know, everything is on track to be finished. In fact, the bridge work, which will include the construction of a plaza that will provide a gathering spot and a limited access point inside the stadium, will be completed on August 5.
It appears that the new scoreboard — 30 percent bigger than the previous one and now geometrically centered with stadium and the new building fielding a locker room and recruiting lounge — is now completely done. I know for a fact that it’s working as it was utilized for G-Day and for camps that have been conducted there since.
I’ve been trying to get inside to get a look at what is supposed to be one of the grandest and most-technologically-impressive buildings of its kind in college football (ought to be for $63 million, right?). But Georgia is holding off on granting any private, hard-hat tours at this point, at least for people not planning to write any checks to pay for it. And apparently the guy working the backhoe underneath the bridge the other day was not impressed with the $20 bill I waved between the chain-locked construction gate just outside the work zone.
Anyway, many of you are not in a situation that you can just pop by Sanford Stadium and take a look, so I thought I’d share my observations. Stay tuned for more details in the near future. I’m told that tour will be coming later.
In the meantime, be sure to welcome Griffith aboard and do your part to bring him up to speed on all those details about UGA he couldn’t possibly know from his previous stints in Knoxville and East Lansing and back in Alabama. Like what the West End Project is and how much it costs.