Before the University of Georgia Athletic Association breaks ground on its planned indoor practice facility, site preparation will soon begin for a temporary home-away-from-home for football team practices.
At the UGA Athletic Association board of directors meeting Friday at the Georgia Center, Athletic Director Greg McGarity shared new information about the $30 million Indoor Athletic Facility, including the location where the Bulldogs will practice for the year that the facility is being constructed.
McGarity said that during the 2016 season, the football team will train at the UGA Club Sports Complex, located about three miles from the team’s current practice facility on South Milledge Avenue, not far from the UGA soccer-softball complex.
He added that it will cost approximately $1 million to prepare the site, which will include three full-length football fields, one of which will sport artificial turf that is expected to be moved from the current practice fields. Once the IAF is completed — which is projected to be Jan. 1, 2017 — the facility on South Milledge will be returned to Club Sports.
While McGarity admitted that there will be some “angst” associated with moving the team on a daily basis to the temporary fields, he added he didn’t think it would cause too much of a problem.
“We’ve got all our services here and it’s a quick drive out there,” McGarity said after Friday’s meeting. “It’s a great practice area with a lot of room; it should work out well for a transition field.”
McGarity said that the team may also practice more often at Sanford Stadium, and he added that coach Mark Richt is well aware of the travel plans of 2016.
“(Richt) knew that to get what we really wanted, there had to be some angst,” McGarity said. “It’s well worth the difficulty we’ll have ... for a facility that will certainly last a lifetime.”
Work on the Club Sports Complex will begin in October, McGarity said, adding that ground will be broken for the IAF around Christmas, although that will also depend on Georgia’s postseason bowl assignment.
“It all depends on the end of the season,” he said. “Right now, our tentative start date is right before Christmas. We prefer not to disturb it at all, but obviously we want to start. Once you get through the pre-Christmas bowl practice, that’s your heavy lifting there and you’re leaving for the bowl site right after that, so depending on what happens after the season, a lot will be determined as we move closer to (that time).”
The temporary fields, which already have lights, will require a considerable amount of renovation to “create a practice scenario that mirrors the Butts-Mehre area,” McGarity said.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said, adding that the Bulldogs will have their first drills on South Milledge for spring practice next March. “If we don’t start now, it won’t be ready for spring ball.”
While the Bulldogs are using the South Milledge fields, club sports will move to the UGA intramural fields, located on East Campus and College Station roads. McGarity praised the work of Victor Wilson, vice president of student affairs, and Eric Atkinson, associate vice president for student engagement, for serving as effective liaisons between the Athletic Association and Club Sports.
When the football team returns to campus in 2017 and Club Sports returns to South Milledge, they’ll find a much better facility than when they left.
“We will leave it in outstanding condition,” McGarity said, calling it a “win-win” for both entities. “They’ll have an artificial-turf field they can use at all time. They were excited to know they would have their club sports at their scheduled times because now if the weather’s bad they have to cancel because the fields aren’t at a level of quality that they will be.”
McGarity’s presentation Friday also included a video “fly-through” of the IAF, and he said that some $3 million in signed commitments toward construction have already been received. UGA President Jere Morehead said the project still requires approval by the University System Board of Regents, which meets next month.