As the first football game of 2017 approaches, Georgia Bulldogs fans aren’t just wondering about the team that will take the field. They also have a lot of questions about what they might encounter at Sanford Stadium.
Specifically, they want to know whether new wrinkles being introduced this season — including the new “clear bag” policy — will result in “the ultimate game-day experience,” as touted in the Georgia Football Official Fan Guide sent last week to season ticket-holders. Or, will they be yet another set of inconveniences that has to be endured?
I put some of the questions Blawg readers have asked me to the UGA Athletics Association and got some answers — and a promise of more information to come soon, particularly with the West End Zone renovations.
Here’s what I found out.
• How will the West End Zone construction impact the pregame Dawg Walk, and will the walk take place at the same time as last year?
The Dawg Walk still will pass through the Tate Center parking lot and into the stadium as usual, according to senior associate athletic director Claude Felton. It still will take place about 2 hours, 15 minutes before kickoff.
• What’s the status of the North stands restroom renovations? What’s being done, and will it be ready for the first game?
The restroom work is complete, Felton said, and includes new epoxy flooring; touchless fixtures for all sinks, toilets and urinals; LED fixtures; heaters; ventilation exhaust fans; and paint. This concludes the final phase of the restroom renovation project, the fan guide says, with improvements to facilities in the 300 level North, all of the 200 level and the 100 level North. The guide says portable restrooms, including ADA-accessible facilities, will be utilized in the west end of the stadium.
• How strictly will the new clear bag and seat cushion rules be enforced for the first game? Will people be turned away or forced to dump their stuff if it doesn’t comply?
“The SEC clear bag policy will be strictly enforced,” Felton said, “beginning with the Appalachian State game. Fans will need to comply with the new policy before entry to the stadium is granted. Like we did for the G-Day game, signage and staff will be posted throughout campus to inform fans of the policy so that we can minimize issues at the stadium gates.”
To see the specifics of the clear bag policy, go to the fan guide page at georgiadogs.com.
The athletic association has made a change in the original seatback/seat cushion policy that was in effect for the G-Day game. Said Felton: “We WILL allow for a seatback [as opposed to only a cushion] as long as the seatback is no wider than 16 inches and does not have any arms or pockets.”
• What will be new/different with the concessions stands this year? Any new offerings? Any changes from the past?
New concessions partners Dreamland BBQ and Dunkin’ Donuts will join Chick-fil-A, Subway and Papa John’s, Felton said. Dreamland BBQ will be offered at nine locations throughout the stadium and will serve chopped pork and chicken sandwiches at each location, while barbecue pork nachos will be sold at the company’s Gate 6 Plaza stand. Dunkin’ Donuts will operate in Reed Plaza and offer hot and iced coffee along with munchkins.
Additionally, Gate 6 Plaza has been turned into a food court, with Chick-fil-A, Dreamland BBQ and Papa John’s each having a stand. Also being added are two beverage portables on the 100 and 300 East End concourses.
Felton said there has been “continued evaluation” of offerings in an effort to streamline the menu “in order to assist with speed of service.” That included discussions with representatives of Chick-fil-A and Augusta National and individuals who have staffed collegiate venues, he said.
The fan guide also notes that prices have been rounded off to the dollar and there no longer will be any free refills offered on beverages and popcorn.
The guide also says that, with the removal of permanent concessions stands under Sanford Bridge as part of the West End renovation, two large “grab-n-go” stands will be offered this season. Both will offer packaged snacks, bottled drinks and hot dogs; one also will have Papa John’s pizza, while the other will offer Chick-fil-A sandwiches.
When the athletics folks provide additional information, I’ll pass it along.
Meanwhile, some other changes at Sanford Stadium are noted by the Poor Man’s Game Notes put out by UGA fan Ryan Scates, a former student member of the athletics board:
1. New LED ribbon boards: The 300 level now is wrapped from end-to-end in new video boards.
2. Uniforms: Some pretty subtle changes to UGA’s uniforms this year, the biggest difference being at the “V” of the collar, where the plastic embellishments are now gone.
3. New scoreboard template: UGA has switched to a better-looking video-board template that debuted at G-Day.
Now, let’s get to some recent Junkyard Mail, including a fan with more game-day questions …
Hey, Bill. Been to a couple Georgia-Florida games, but looking to take my family to our first-ever game at Sanford this year. Not having a lot of luck sifting through countless ticket site ads in search of a veteran home game attendee posting do’s and don’ts of the whole experience: best place to park/tailgate, which sections are the bands in, which sections are best for families, where are most convenient (and decent) bathrooms, etc.
— N. Roper
If your tickets don’t include parking in one of the athletic association lots, your best bet is one of the indie lots run by various churches and schools along Milledge Avenue and Lumpkin Street. Expect to pay in the $25 to $30 range. Best tailgating areas are in front of the South Campus Parking Deck and Myers Hall along Lumpkin, I think, but there’s more space on the Myers Quad. The Redcoats generally sit in Section 112, in the midst of the students, and the visiting band in Section 101, down near the West End Zone. Best sections for families? Probably those under the overhang in the lower level so you have some shade! As for restrooms, the most convenient (as in closest to the seats) are in the concourses, but those tend to get very crowded (and, in the past, at least, rather nasty). The nicest restrooms are in Reed Plaza on the North side.
While I’m at it, a bit of unsolicited advice: Preschool kids generally aren’t very happy sitting through an entire football game, so if yours are younger than, oh, about 8, I’d think twice about bringing them.
Bill, I don’t know about you, but I was a bit surprised that the Dawgs were only ranked No. 15 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll. Is that where you’d expect to find the SEC East favorite ranked? Seems like we get no respect!
— Barry Black
Considering the state of the SEC East in recent years, I’d say the coaches poll got it about right. Georgia has a lot of talent coming into the season but also has a lot of question marks — particularly on the offensive line. Still, I wouldn’t worry about the preseason ranking; it’s where you are at the end of the season that matters (and, even then, only in the College Football Playoff poll). If the Dawgs win plenty of games, they’ll rank highly.
Hey Bill, where do you expect to see the most improvement in the job Kirby Smart and his staff will do in their second year?
— Jimmy Brooks
While I hope we see a better offensive product on the field this year, the area where I’m thinking we are most likely to see improvement is in special teams. Smart emphasized special teams during the offseason, and the Dawgs are having healthy preseason competitions at all the key positions: kicker, punter, returner.
I was especially impressed that Smart was proactive in searching for a replacement for receiver/return man Isaiah McKenzie, signing junior college transfer Ahkil Crumpton from Los Angeles Valley College.
“We combed the country looking for an elite returner,” Smart said of Crumpton at media day. “We didn’t feel like we had an elite returner. We really don’t have any experienced guys. We lost two guys. Isaiah had done it so long, and we weren’t expecting to lose him. So, when that situation arises, you try to fix your roster as best you can. … We identified him as someone we felt was a really good player. Of course, we watched tape on him, and he really did a good job. We think that he upgrades our roster. He helps us.”
Crumpton isn’t guaranteed the job — Terry Godwin also will get a look on punt returns and Mecole Hardman is the front-runner for kickoff returns — but the new arrival looks a lot like McKenzie.
Hey Bill, is this really (the) first time ever that Georgia has opened with three night games on the road?
— Sarah Gleason
It is not the first time Georgia has opened with three consecutive night games on the road. But it is the first time since 1966, when the Dawgs opened with night games against Mississippi State (in Jackson), VMI (in Roanoke) and South Carolina (in Columbia).
It is beyond time to honor Vince Dooley by adding his name to Sanford Stadium. With no disrespect to Dr. Sanford and his family, but with full respect to honor both, by having our stadium named Sanford-Dooley Stadium, while Coach Dooley is alive to receive such an honor. And none of that Dooley Field nonsense. Our field is “Between the Hedges”!
— J. Parry
Actually, I’d be fine with either Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium or Sanford-Dooley Stadium. And naming the field after Dooley wouldn’t change the games being played “Between the Hedges.” Whichever way UGA might go, I agree with you that it ought to be done while Dooley is still around to be honored in person.