That’s because Tuesday night UGA announced a $63 million project that will change the way Kirby Smart and his staff will be able to present the program and the institution on game days, and even during recruiting events. I let readers of Dawg Post know about this upgrade a week ago in an edition of What We Are Hearing.
Called the West End Zone Project, the major focus of the construction is recruiting - that’s what the public will see as a result of the changes. But UGA’s locker room will be moved from the east end of Sanford Stadium to the west end - meaning the Bulldogs will emerge from what is now the student section of the stadium rather than the faculty-staff area.
Over 120,000 total square feet of space will either be new or “improved”. One new part will be the 10,500-square-foot recruiting space that UGA describes as “the first of its kind at Sanford Stadium for the Georgia football program.”
Couple of things… first this shows just how far behind the rest of the college football world UGA is. Frankly its been embarrassing how bad this aspect of the game day experience has been. Consider that recruits first have to get to the stadium, which has meant first going to Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall (parking is a nightmare all of the time let alone game day at the Butts), then getting to the stadium, which another game day hike.
Once inside the stadium, recruits have been moved around all sorts of places over time. At one point there was a “Recruiting lounge”, but it was in the club level of the stadium. Sounds like a good thing, but the problem is that there’s no easy way to get from the floor of the stadium to the club area. It usually involves recruits, their parents and the hosts walking up three flights of stairs… then fighting crowd in one of the bottle-neck areas of the stadium to get to the “recruiting lounge.”
I make this trip about four times a game day, and I can tell you that its not a lot of fun.
Another option, which really isn’t available because of space, would have been to have the recruiting lounge on the east side of the stadium, which is not only the opposite side of the stadium from where the prospects come in, but a space that has no exclusive area in which they can he hosted. Both UGA's and the visitors' locker rooms are on the east side. The officials’ area is on the east side. The massive media area is on the east side. Much of the parking for state troopers and tons of game day operations are on that side of the stadium because it offers an easy way to get to East Campus Road, which is the primary way in and out of the stadium not only for much of the media, but all of the visiting team and nearly all of game day operations.
There is simply no space.
So prospects were jammed into the area with both teams, media and the Redcoat Band (pregame). Prospects use the same entrance and exit to the field as all of those groups as well as anyone with a pre-game pass, and frankly its just far too crowded for all involved. The southeast gate for field access is heavily travelled before, during and after games.
Now Kirby and company can separate the prospects from the rest of the stadium. The media will be on the opposite side of the stadium; so will the opposing team; as will the Redcoat Band (we are led to believe). So instead of walking up to UGA’s antiquated and inadequate locker room, now prospects can simply take a flight of stairs down to the locker room for post-game activities. No longer will the staff at UGA be forced to use the turf of the stadium to organize post-game recruiting efforts… that should be able to be handled within the 10,500-square-foot recruiting space.
College sports are about recruiting, and this is UGA’s biggest step forward in that area in terms of facilities in a very long time. This doesn’t appear to be the half-assed effort that gave birth to the former indoor practice facility, which turned out to be an indoor “meeting place” that seemed to be used more to feed media folks hotdogs than providing a place to practice football.
Perhaps the era of half-assed at UGA is over.