Price tag approved for Sanford renovations, but no beer yet

GREENSBORO – The University of Georgia Athletic Association on Thursday unanimously approved a $90.2 million price tag for renovations to Sanford Stadium and the Lindsey Hopkins indoor tennis facilities.

The new project will renovate the south grandstand and concourse at Sanford Stadium.

It will cost 68 million to widen the Lower-Level concourse and add a new entryway off Gillis Bridge, along with additional restrooms, concession stands, and a press box to the Gate 9 area.

Construction will be done in two phases.

The First will be completed before the 2023 season. Phase two before the 2024 season will include the new press box which will be located atop the southwest corner of the stadium.

Like all projects, the University will raise as much money as it can to complete the projects, despite the high construction costs across the country. The $26.7 million dollar tennis project, for example, has already been fully funded by donations.

“I’ve talked to ADs across the country. It’s impacting projects everywhere. But thankfully we’ve had phenomenal support from our donor base that’s allowed us to keep raising money and to do projects like the indoor tennis facility, which is fully funded,” athletic director Josh Brooks said. “But, at the same time, like you said, you’ve got to focus on efficiencies. We will always want to be first-class in everything we do for our student-athletes or coaching staff but finding where we can be efficient and not be wasteful and respectful with what money we raise.”

During the meeting, the University also announced a new Capital Fundraising project that has a goal of raising $300 million over the next five years for continued improvement of the University’s athletic facilities, along with enhancing mental health services for student athletes.

Brooks also touched on impending improvements to Georgia’s baseball and softball facilities, which are set to begin after the 2023 season.

He confirmed the focus of the improvements will be in areas of player development, which have lagged behind most other teams in the SEC.

“That’s where it starts, right? For me, when we talk about that, we’re talking about the student-athlete experiences first, pitching lab, hitting cages, things like that that makes the student-athlete’s experience 365 days a year better,” Brooks said. “As you build up those fundamental aspects of the facility, then you can look at those structures and say OK, if you build a building here, how can we put in more seating here.

“So, it’s student-athletes first, then fans. Fans are obviously important, but for this facility and for softball, it’s student-athletes first, which I think will create some opportunities for our fans.”

In other news:

• It does not appear that alcohol sales to the general public at Sanford Stadium will happen anytime soon.

“That’s not even a discussion point right now,” Brooks said. “We introduced it at Stegeman, Foley Field and softball and it’s been a low roll out. We’re going to be very intentional about that, that’s just not on the agenda right now for Sanford.”

Brooks said there are a lot of areas that need to be addressed before the University moves forward with a plan.

“There’s a lot of events into it, whether it’s the length of the game and the time, or the logistics of just doing it and preparing it,” he said. “Look, we’re still learning as we grow, so we started with smaller venues, to where we can crawl, walk, run, so now we’re still monitoring the progress we made at Stegeman, Foley and Turner, and we’re just now getting that data in and really analyzing, so it may take some time to continue to see how they evolve, but there’s no thought on that now, it’s not our focus.”

• Conference schedules are obviously a big topic in the SEC. With the impending additions of Oklahoma and Texas, the league is trying to formulate an equitable schedule to best suit the whole league.

Unfortunately, this could lead to some change. For example: Will Auburn continue to be Georgia’s crossover opponent. And what about Florida? Will the Bulldogs and Gators continue to play the final weekend in October?

“Those things are important but, again, we’re 1/16th, right?” Brooks said. “So, we can push for what’s important to us but, again, we’re one of 16 teams that votes and we’re very respectful of the conference and what direction we go.”

Conference schedules are expected to be a hot topic of conversation during the SEC Spring Meetings next week in Destin, Fla.

“I think that’s where the Commissioner comes in. I think we have by far the greatest commissioner in all of college athletics and I think he will work through all of those kinds of issues, because every school has issues like Auburn and Florida and has what’s on their list,” UGA President Jere Morehead said. “I think in the end we’ll get to a good outcome, but I don’t know whether it will be resolved next week or if it will take longer. But ultimately Commissioner will get us to a 16-zero vote, I feel confident.”

• The current deal Georgia and Florida has with Jacksonville runs for two more years. However, with other pressing matters, such as the impending change in schedule, talks with the city for anything past the 2023 season is currently on hold.

“We’re not in that discussion right now. We signed a deal a few years ago with an option for two more years,” Brook said. “We haven’t gotten into the weeds on that. We’ll address that eventually, it just hasn’t been on our radar right now with other pressing matters.”