Stadium Expansion goes to the last minute

Sanford Stadium was born in 1929. It remains a work in progress.

Fans filing into Georgia's home today will see as much, since workers will spend the next few weeks putting the final touches on an addition to the north stands that will raise Sanford's capacity from 86,520 to more than 92,000, making it the fifth-largest on-campus stadium in the nation.

They'll also see that the job's not quite finished.

"It's at about 85 percent," said Charles Whittemore, Georgia's assistant athletic director for facilities. "The construction company is probably going to be here another month before they absolutely, positively punch-list and move out. It'll probably be the Alabama game before we're absolutely positively done."

About 5,500 seats were added as Georgia put a third level on that side. New entrance and exit ramps were installed, as well as escalators going straight to the 300 level.

The project, with Turner Construction as the general contractor, cost $25 million. Up next for Sanford is one level of sky suites - 27 in all - that will add up to about 700 more seats to Sanford. That work is scheduled to begin in January.

Work on the addition began in earnest last December with the demolition of some ramps on that side, followed by extensive electrical and plumbing work. Work stopped for exams and study time because that side of the stadium is near some student housing.

That delay, plus the rain of the last several months and normal construction issues, has helped keep the project interesting.

"There's been a lot of head-scratching," Whittemore said. "There's a lot of unplanned head-scratching. I don't think you can dig in the ground around Athens, Ga. All the good spots have already been picked."

Whittemore said everything has passed inspection and the school was issued a temporary occupancy permit. Fans watching the game won't notice that the work is incomplete.

"I'm real glad we're having a day game for the first game with the new addition," he said. "It gives everybody a chance to see how to move around during the day."

There will be a few signs work remains.

"Bathrooms will be usable, but it's not a porta-potty, and that's important," Whittemore said, with humor in his voice. "They're not what you would call a finished product. "There could be, in some situations, a commode without a toilet paper holder. That might happen."

There will be a temporary concession stand set up as well. Whittemore said every effort will be made to hide the remaining work, and that everything from a safety standpoint is set.

"These areas will be clean, that's our goal," he said.

The crews won't waste any time today, either.

"What time's kickoff?" Whittemore asked. "Gates open two hours before kickoff. That's when we'll stop working."

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