ATHENS — If Georgia wasn’t already in the SEC’s facilities race, the Bulldogs are now fully immersed and making a move toward the front of the pack.
The UGA Athletic Association’s board of directors, at its fall meeting Friday, unanimously approved Athletic Director Greg McGarity’s proposal to add an $80 million football operations building to the Bulldogs’ already sprawling football complex. The 165,000-square foot facility will be added to the existing Butts-Mehre building, so it has been deemed a renovation-and-expansion project.
The new addition will give fourth-year football coach Kirby Smart another shiny toy to show recruits. Since Smart was tabbed as Georgia’s coach in December 2015, the Bulldogs have built the $31 million Payne Indoor Athletic Facility and the $63 million dollar West End locker room and recruiting lounge at Sanford Stadium. The board’s latest gift tops them all.
The facility, described by presenter Josh Brooks as “cutting edge for efficiency and functionality,” will be built in two phases, the first of which will limit the Bulldogs to one outdoor practice field next year. The second phase won’t impact field use.
Construction will begin in January, with the first phase being completed in April 2021. Phase II will be completed in January 2022.
McGarity told the board that UGA development staff has already raised more than $30 million toward the project. That includes residual donations left over from the fundraising campaigns for the West End and indoor facility, he said. Board of Regents construction policy dictates that half the funds for a new building must be raised through private means. Thanks to continuing efforts focused primarily on donors joining the still relatively new Magill Society, McGarity expects the remainder to be raised relatively soon.
So what are Smart and the Bulldogs getting for those big bucks?
According to a presentation made by Brooks, a deputy athletic director, the new addition will be connected to the existing Butts-Mehre Building and will be located in the area between the track grandstand and the indoor practice building. The new facility will be three stories tall, with the plan for construction crews to dig down through the ground to place the first floor even with the lower Woodruff Practice Fields and the bottom floor of the indoor building.
Inside the new building, which will be built in the architectural motif of the indoor building, there will be, new coaches’ offices, an expansive locker room and a “wow area” of a players lounge in the center of the facility. Also included will be a new sports-medicine facility, a new weight room featuring 32 lifting platforms as opposed to the current 16 and strength-and-conditioning facilities, a new grab-and-go nutrition area and a “multi-purpose space” to entertain recruits and hold other functions.
A rendering of an aerial view of the planned football -operations building at the University of Georgia. The plans for the building were announced at an athletic association board meeting Sept. 6, 2019. The building is planned for an area beside the track complex, the football indoor practice facility and the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall.
When this latest project is completed before the 2021 season, Georgia will have spent more than $146 million on new football facilities since Smart came on the scene.
But it’s not merely a show of support for Smart. Since the advent of the SEC’s TV network, money has been pouring into the conference by the hundreds of millions. The revenue share for Georgia and the member institutions currently is in the $44 million-a-year range.
So, being a “non-profit institution, UGA is merely doing what all the other SEC schools are doing, and that’s spending the money on facilities. SEC Eastern Division rivals Florida and South Carolina have recently opened $50 million football facilities. LSU just christened a new $23 million football locker room, and Alabama and Texas A&M long have been out front in building massive and expensive football facilities.
But as McGarity told the board Friday, UGA is most proud that it is not having to assume any long-term debt to improve its facilities. The majority of the projects is being paid for out of the athletic association’s reserves and from donations.
“Donors to the Magill Society have stepped up in a big way,” McGarity said.
Football fans are excited about the progress of the program under Smart, who has led the Bulldogs to a 33-10 record since arriving from Alabama.
Brooks also updated the board on new multi-million dollar new-facility projects for tennis and equestrian.