ATHENS — Earlier today I attended the dedication ceremonies for the new West End renovation and improvement project at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium. I then toured the Bulldogs’ new locker room and recruiting lounge that were the centerpiece of that $63 million project and filed a report about it posthaste, because I had to hustle to get to UGA’s athletic board meeting and cover that for DawgNation.
Unfortunately, that didn’t leave me much time to share all the photos and video I’d gathered during the tour of the place. A few readers called me out about that. They said DawgNation’s coverage was lacking because they didn’t get a true inside look at the new facility.
Well, if nothing else, I’m here to please DawgNation readers. With the caveat that I’m neither an exceptional videographer nor photographer — I could tell you about my battery being dead on my company-issued camera and about one of the videos I shot coming out upside down, but I won’t — I how offer you my version of a video blog.
Hope it satisfies that one particular needy reader who got after me this afternoon. Right, John Swartz?
Anyway, without any further ado, and with a cap-tip to former AJC columnist Jeff Schultz, here’s what they call a Vlog:
INSIDE THE LOCKEROOM
The first floor of the 120,000-square foot facility houses the Bulldogs’ locker room, the assistant coaches’ locker room, coach Kirby Smart’s locker room and a small training room. There’s also, of course, a small tunnel out to the back of the West end zone. Georgia will now be entering from this end of the stadium for the foreseeable future after entering from the East End for at least 60 years, maybe more. …
INSIDE THE RECRUITING LOUNGE
Georgia’s recruits traditionally have sat in seats somewhere in the stadium — the East end zone the last several years — and been entertained in a glass-enclosed area on the club level of the South side of the stadium. There are lots of steps between those two areas.
Now they have an expansive entertainment area featuring 17-foot ceilings, a stage area, dozens of televisions and wide screens and lots of tables, chairs and couches for lounging. As Kirby Smart said at the dedication, it’s as nice or nicer than any such facility on the country. Well, see for yourself. …
THE COACHES’ LOCKER ROOM
The coaches’ have their own locker room to the left of the tunnel that exits onto the field. Well, the 10 assistant coaches and a half-dozen quality-control specialists share one and head coach Kirby Smart has his own. I was able to see the assistant coaches’ space. Kirby’s space was locked.
THE WEST END PLAZA
Probably under-reported throughout the whole construction process was all the improvements made outside the new building and underneath Gillis Bridge (the real name for what everybody calls Sanford Bridge). It features murals, statues, historic displays and lots of cool graphics and such. More importantly to a lot of fans, it also offers more restaurants and concession stands, and they’re shaded by the bridge.
Speaking of which, UGA X, the Georgia Bulldogs’ bulldog mascot, has been displaced by this new edifice. He usually hangs out with the Seiler family underneath the bridge before games, and your more astute Georgia fans know to go there for a selfie opportunity. The 4-year-old English bulldog who at home goes by the name “Que” will still be in the general area, however. The Seilers will be parked in the first parking space to the right of Gate 10, where there’s a grassy area bordered by Tanyard Creek. All-in-all a pretty good set up. Not to mention an improvement if Que needs to relieve himself! …
GILLIS BRIDGE AND VIDEO BOARD
OK, so I didn’t actually have a chance to go up on the bridge and check out the new Gate 1 and plaza area up there. So sue me! I had a lot to do Friday. But I hear it’s really nice.
They actually did a lot of work on the old bridge, which is reassuring. And now there will be a new entrance for people who are sitting in the West End zone. The video board everybody has seen. It has been operation since the G-Day Game and completed from an exterior standpoint for quite a while now. The important facts are it is 30 percent larger and now is centered with the field and everything else. I actually didn’t realize it wasn’t before. It’s also is supposed to provide a high-definition picture and is louder with better sound quality, which may or may not be considered a good thing by everybody.
OK, that’s it for me. I’m going to take a nap or go drink a margarita, depending on which comes available first. If you see a guy sleeping at a Mexican restaurant in Athens, it’s probably me. Don’t wake me. Just buy me another margarita!
I’ll check in with y’all bright and early tomorrow from the stadium.