Some Dawgs fans unhappy with UGA’s priorities at Sanford Stadium

Sanford Stadium-Georgia
Are loyal Georgia Bulldogs fans being taken for granted at Sanford Stadium?

The announcement this week of a $63 million enhancement of the west end of Sanford Stadium set off quite a bit of fan grumbling, as the aim appears to be enhancing the “game day experience” of players and recruits while doing little to satisfy the needs of the paying customers in the seats.

The project, which includes a new locker room for the team, a hospitality lounge for recruits, a larger video board and a new plaza running adjacent to the Sanford Drive bridge, is expected to be ready for the 2018 football season and will be paid for largely by donations from fans and boosters. It was approved by the UGA Athletic Association board of directors and now will go before the Board of Regents in March.

Artist’s rendering of the new locker room at Sanford Stadium. (UGA)

It will include four new restrooms (two for men, two for women) for the use of fans in the west end, as well as new concession stands, but nowhere in the plan is there any mention of fixing the dire restroom situation on the north side of the stadium.

The substandard restrooms in the main concourse (as opposed to the newer Reed Plaza area) are the No. 1 complaint I hear from Dawgs fans, with concessions (overpriced food, lousy selection, slow lines and poorly trained staff) running a close second.

Fixing those problems wouldn’t be nearly as expensive as the changes that are on deck, but those fan concerns are not addressed by the new project. Meanwhile, UGA Athletics Director Greg McGarity talks about having “just scratched the surface” of the fundraising potential of Georgia’s fans.

If, as a UGA fan, that makes you feel taken for granted, well, you’re not alone, as the negative feedback showed this week in my mail and comments on my Facebook page.

Here’s what some of those fans had to say. …

Bill, I’m really bothered by the [messed] up priorities of Greg McGarity, Kirby Smart and UGA athletics. Listen, I’m as loyal a Dawgs fan as you’ll find, and I recognize that keeping up with other schools in terms of facilities is important. But too often at UGA all the emphasis is on impressing recruits, while they seem to think the fan base is just there to open our checkbooks when one of these new projects come up, while they ignore the fact that the game day experience for fans at Sanford Stadium leaves MUCH to be desired! I’m interested in your thoughts on all this.

— Ken Bowman

Bulldogs Athletics Director Greg McGarity. (UGA)

Unfortunately, McGarity and company do seem to view us fans as merely donors to be solicited continually for more money, rather than customers whose needs must be taken into account. In the wake of this week’s west end zone expansion announcement, I was pretty surprised by the way McGarity essentially blew off Seth Emerson’s question about what is going to be done about the dismal state of many of the stadium restrooms. McGarity noted that the renovation will add two men’s and two women’s restrooms in the west end, as if that somehow is going to help the thousands of folks on the north side of the stadium, where the overwhelmed facilities are just plain disgusting.

As McGarity put it: “You prioritize stuff as they become important.” And, apparently, the fans in the north stands haven’t yet reached that status.

There appears to be a basic disconnect between McGarity and many of the fans supporting UGA’s program.

How to fix that? I like something Senator Blutarsky wrote at Get the Picture: “Would it kill Greg McGarity and Jere Morehead to get out of their cushy boxes and spend an entire game day with the regular folks who make up the vast majority of the Georgia fan base?  You know — get a real feel for issues that bother us like tailgating restrictions, stadium concessions and bathrooms, ridiculously loud PA, etc. by living through them with the hoi polloi.  And then sit in post-game traffic for a while to get a real flavor for that horror show. … It might not make them so willingly dismissive of our demands for a level of service consummate with our financial contributions.”

Bill, I too have been a season tickets holder since the early ’70s, also on the north side. This new attitude of spending 100s of millions on the players while letting the 94,000 of us that pay to see it suffer with no attention at all is unacceptable. The concession stands are an embarrassment. I bought a bottle of hot water for $4 at the Nichols State game at halftime. Staff told me they didn’t prepare for the demand. I asked if they had ice. They said sure, that will be $3. Crazy. Halftime and it took 30 minutes. The bathrooms would be an unacceptable in many third world countries. No space to walk and you miss half a quarter getting overpriced bad products. … I hope you continue to press for a change. The fans of our team deserve as much consideration as the players and recruits.

— Richard Downing

Getting concessions at Sanford Stadium can be very time-consuming. (UGA)

It’s ridiculous that you can miss almost an entire quarter of the game trying to make a concessions run at Sanford Stadium. In recent years, I’ve heard preseason talk about efforts to streamline that process, and I have noticed more vendors peddling drinks in the stands. But, aside from the debatable quality of the concessions themselves and the pricing, the concession counters are still manned by poorly trained volunteers, which is a big factor in the slowness.

Meanwhile, cupcake-laden home game schedules like the one fans are facing this year don’t appear to be pleasing too many, either. …

Hi Bill, The home schedule is, well, atrocious. There just isn’t any “value” in the season ticket package this year, and I’ve thought that for years. We reluctantly went ahead and made our Hartman Fund contribution, which I don’t know that I can really afford, out of a sense of loyalty and love for the team.  However …  the game day experience in Athens isn’t the greatest these days with all the noon kickoffs, the blaring rap music, lousy restrooms and concessions, parking issues, etc. I love the Dawgs, but at some point they are going to price me out of the market. I have a feeling I will not be alone.

— Andrew A. Rothschild

That’s what I’m hearing increasingly from fans, Andrew.

A sampling of other comments on these issues from Blawg readers:

This is what the recruiting lounge is expected to look like. (UGA)

Mike Keyes is “thinking it’s time to watch from home…..product on the field leaves a lot to be desired. That doesn’t have anything to do with my loyalty. …just a better use of money instead of the Hartman fund.” … Says Scott White: “Reality is, I’m in my 30s and I have very few peers that donate like I do. Most do the pick-and-choose approach [via Stub Hub] you spoke of [as opposed to buying season tickets], and, as time goes on, it becomes more and more appealing.” … Lindsey Kee Portmann complains: “UGA wants more and more money from its loyal fans, I love the Dawgs, but … I think they need to make some readjustments in their budget. Bathrooms need an upgrade & I think they have the cash to do it already. Stop hitting fans with it, in my opinion.” … Paul Germer says he chooses “not to purchase the below-standard food and avoid the unbelievably slow food/drink lines … the bathrooms are a joke.” … David Hubert, who says he’s a long-time season ticket holder, thinks “the fans are the least considered part if the equation. … It is just a matter of time before we drop our 50-yard-line tix in the lower bowl.” … Adds Mark Symms: “[The Dawgs] always have my loyalty, [but] I can think of better uses of my money than the Hartman Fund.”

Feel free to share your own views on what the priorities should be at Sanford Stadium …

(If there’s something you want to discuss, or you have a question, email me at junkyardblawg@gmail.com, or connect with me on Facebook or via Twitter. And don’t forget to check out past entries of the Junkyard Blawg.)