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Post Is it time to expand Sanford Stadium again?

Wednesday July 16, 2008

The shockingly high ticket cutoffs announced yesterday led many in message board land to ask the obvious question: is it time to expand Sanford Stadium?

There seem to be no immediate official plans to increase capacity. Ticket manager Tim Cearley told UGASports.com, "I have seen no mention or plans for a stadium expansion. I have not been given any indication from the Development Office that there is a plan or study for doing so."

That doesn’t mean we can’t kick the idea around. It’s a discussion worth having. You’ll see below that my view on expansion is generally negative in the "do you realize what it will take to do this?" sense. Any expansion worth considering will likely be the single most expensive undertaking in the athletic department’s history. It would also place significant additional stresses on the campus and city of Athens. Those concerns don’t mean that there aren’t solutions, and we might even be willing to live with some of the discomforts.


  • Revenue. At $40 per game, adding 5,000 seats means $1,200,000 in revenue over a six-game home schedule. That’s before any additional Hartman Fund contributions to secure the right to buy those tickets. The costs of expansion will be great, and it will take some time to recover those costs, but eventually an expansion should become a revenue generator if demand remains high.
  • Status. Sanford Stadium still trails only Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium among SEC schools in terms of capacity, but the neighborhood has become a bit crowded lately with recent expansions at Alabama and LSU. Would an expansion make Georgia the largest stadium in the SEC or the nation? Likely not. But it might get Sanford close to 100,000 seats. This might seem like a silly point, but college football – especially in the South – is all about the big. Coaches salaries are big. Even mundane facilities like offices and weight rooms are now caught up in the arms race. Bigger is better, and that applies to the stadium as much as anything else.
  • Accessibility. With a point total of over 10,000 necessary for first-time season tickets, most recent alumni won’t sniff season tickets for years. Alums from my era in the early 1990s never had this problem (there were even such things as non-renewable season tickets!), but Georgia football is now accessible to fewer young alums and families. There’s no right to watch Georgia football in person, but you hate to turn away fans who want to support the program and start their own traditions of bringing their families to Athens for game day.
  • Fixing what’s broke. I’ll bring this up again in the cons, but expansion will force improvements in existing areas of the stadium such as concessions, entry gates, and concourses. These areas need work even at the current capacity.
  • The view is changing anyway. Almost everyone speaks wistfully of the view out of the open end of the stadium whenever expansion comes up. It isn’t special because of what you see (I mean, is Baxter Hill really that scenic?), but the sense of open space is what makes it work. Between the Student Learning Center and work going on around the Tate Center expansion, that view is changing on its own. If, as planned, a mirror of the SLC is built on the southeast corner of Baxter and Lumpkin, you’ll be looking at a lot of brick.


  • Additional costs. Whether Sanford Stadium is expanded by filling in the west (bridge) end zone or extending the Tech Deck around to the east, there will be some very expensive consequences. Either option will require rerouting or tunneling a main campus artery. Construction on the east side would also have to deal with an active rail line. Construction on the west side would affect not only the bridge but also the Tate Center and the improvements currently underway for Tate 2. This extra work before actual stadium work begins will add significantly to the cost of the project.
  • Parking. As recently as ten years ago, free parking was the norm on game day. One could park as close as the corner of Baxter and Lumpkin for no cost. The combination of campus construction, stadium expansion, and the expansion of Athletic Association-controlled lots has put a price tag on much of the parking on and close to campus. Free parking remains in nooks and on the campus’s southeastern fringes.
  • Finances. Though the Athletic Association continues to operate in the black and bring in record revenues, it still carries close to $90 million in long-term debt. The last major expansion in 2003 cost $21 million, and it didn’t involve much of the extra work that the next expansion would. Would the fiscally conservative athletic department be willing to take on that additional debt with other projects like the Butts-Mehre expansion still ahead?
  • Campus concerns. The state of campus after big games has drawn the attention of President Adams and other campus leaders. Their suggestions and proposals for dealing with a trashed campus have only added to the friction between Adams and the football fan base. Will the University administration be receptive to adding several thousand more fans onto crowded streets and a crowded campus?
  • Stadium bottlenecks. The Gate 6 improvements showed how much has to be done around the rest of the stadium. Concession and bathroom lines are long, concourses are narrow and cramped, and it can take a while to get through the gate if you arrive close to game time. Those are problems that would have to be addressed before another major expansion.
  • Tickets can still be had. The record-high cutoffs have led to a bit of overreaction, and I admit I contribute to that above by implying that Georgia football is somehow accessible to all but the loyal and the wealthy. That’s not really the case. Half of Georgia’s home games each year are more or less throwaways. Tickets for Georgia Southern, Central Michigan, and Vanderbilt will be easily available on game day and you’re almost certain to pay less than face value. Tickets for the other home games will be a little more difficult to come by, but they can still be had even if you have to use a broker like StubHub. The same applies to road games. If a $10,000 donation is too rich for your blood, I would be willing to bet that you could get into every regular season Georgia football game – home and away – this season for less than $1,000. If all you want to do is see a few games at Sanford Stadium with your kids, you can do it and pay less than face value for the tickets if you aren’t picky about the games.
  • Demand is cyclical. Paul is right on. Times are good now, and they’ll be that way for the short term (wait til you see next year’s home schedule!). But reality is that it won’t be that way forever. Demand for Georgia football will probably always be strong, but the peaks will ebb and flow. Planning for stadium capacity according to those peaks will end up leaving a lot of excess capacity. If you don’t believe me, look at the stands during the second half of the season opener.

What do you think? Is expansion inevitable? Is Sanford at ts optimal size? Are the parking problems and other concerns exaggerated? Is preserving the view and aesthetics of the stadium overrated? Are there other considerations or benefits everyone else is overlooking?

7 Responses to 'Is it time to expand Sanford Stadium again?'

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  • A) I think they should expand simply to close off the stadium and help keep noise in.

    B) For me, it is not the view out, but that as an Athens resident and UGA alumni, I love that I can drive over to campus any day and look into the stadium

    So I’d like to see them close it off, but leave a “viewing window” so to speak that still allows you to see in.

    Just my 2 cents

  • Sanford Stadium is my like my personal home – I have been going to games there since BEFORE the double decking for the 1967 season.

    Stadiums that are completely closed off like UT keep the noise in, but you can only see the stadium when you are inside it!

    To increase seating but keep the endzone open, we could raise the west side bridge 10-15 feet, and also widen it into a plaza. In conjunction with that, we could raise the endzone seats to the level of the bridge (plaza).

    That may only give us an extra thousand or so seats, but it would help a little and perhaps give us less fan congestion on the bridge, and keep the endzone open.

  • Sanford is plenty loud when it needs to be, so that’s not really a concern to me.

    I’d hope that the UGAA would address the concourse/gate issues as well as Stegeman work before worrying about a huge Sanford expansion.

    Ideally, they’d end up bringing the Tech Deck around. I know they engineered it so it could be added on to. The biggest reason you don’t mess with the west end is because it’s one of the things that makes Sanford unique.

  • With ticket demand out the roof along with the right to get those tickets, I say we need to expand. My wife and I actually gave above and beyond what we normally do and still did not meet the cutoff for away tickets.

  • http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3002/2678012665_3e511c8f9a_o.jpg

    something like this would be perfect.

  • strikeforce awesome

    October 5th, 2009
    4:39 am


    YEAH!!! Spoid Kills, you’ve got the right idea!
    Close in the west-end. The view from those seats would be much better and it’d make the stadium much louder and intimidating.
    Hobnail_Boot, i respectfully have to disagree with your point that we shouldn’t bowl in the west endzone because it makes Sanford unique. An elevated upper deck in on the west side would be one of the most unique features of any college football stadium. Also, people made the argument that watching the game on the hill in the east endzone made the stadium unique, but i sure am glad they bowled that in!
    People will get over the change, and teams will fear playing between the hedges even more.
    If demand for tickets fluctuates they can allocate the seats to the 5,000 or so students who get jipped on tickets every year. I only got half a season this year and I’m a freakin 2nd year!!! It’s total BS.

  • sect107row27seat8

    November 22nd, 2009
    7:40 pm


    alright, my dad has had season tickets for 35 years on the 50. what him and i think is that we need to completely bowl in the west endzone. and make it level with the 3rd deck on the north side. the triple all the way around the stadium giving us aroud 105k. and then if we could get any better, me coming home from the loss to kentucky yesterday, we would be so lound and the sound would be kept in. just saying, we woould be so friggin loud