Richt still optimistic about indoor facility

DESTIN, FL – Eventually, Mark Richt hopes, Georgia will have an indoor practice facility, but it's not and has never been his top priority, he said. The value of ever having a place for the rare football practice that is forced indoors is debatable, according to the SEC coaches gathered here for the first day of the conference's spring meetings.

"In four years, we've probably had five or six practices delayed," said Bobby Johnson, the coach at Vanderbilt, one of three SEC schools with no indoor facility. "We have not had one canceled, so I don't see a need for it."

Florida and Georgia are other two schools, and Gators coach Urban Meyer sees no need to have one.

"I've heard people complain about it and whine about it, but I don't think it's a big issue," he said.

When Meyer hears a recruit say such-and-such school has a facility, "I'll make a comment like so-and-so needs an indoor facility; we don't," he said. "It's not a priority."

Recruiting is the chief reason to build an indoor facility, which in Georgia's case probably would cost between $10 million and $40 million, said South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Alabama's Mike Shula.

"The main reason it's important is because everybody has one," Spurrier said.

For LSU, the facility is important because of heat issues, athletic director Skip Bertman said.

"You can't stay outside in Louisiana in July and August, you just can't," he said. "Now we know, if you do that, somebody could die. We didn't know that (in the past). In that sense, I have to have some place for them to go."

Even Mark Richt admits the Bulldogs only would use an indoor facility "five or 10 times" a year. That's why he made several other projects a higher priority since taking over at the school in 2001.

"When I got here, there were plans on the board to have an indoor facility," he said, "but I didn't think it was the most important thing to get done. It was all those things that make a difference in the day-to-day life of our players."

Georgia has spent millions of dollars on facility improvements since Richt took over, on projects ranging from a complete locker room makeover to the addition of two state-of-the-art artificial turf practice fields to a small football museum outside the coaches offices.

That doesn't count the university's completion of the East Campus Village, a palatial dorm and dining hall complex that houses many football players.

"In my opinion, we had a lot of things we needed to get squared away," Richt said.

He has several other projects in mind that he hopes will receive approval from the Athletic Association's board of directors in the upcoming months. Those include: training room and locker room improvements, updated video equipment and a covered area for feeding recruits.

As for the indoor facility, Georgia administrators are well aware of the mixed opinions about indoor facilities and athletic director Damon Evans said last week there is no guarantee Richt will get his wish. Still, the Bulldog coach remains optimistic.

"We're hopefully getting plans drawn up," he said. "We're checking the feasibility of things and what things cost and then we'll take it to the board and see if we can get it approved."

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