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Post One step closer to an indoor practice facility

Wednesday August 6, 2014

In September Georgia’s Athletic Association board of directors will consider an indoor football practice facility.

The idea of an indoor facility has been on the table since the Donnan years, so what finally got it on the agenda? When we looked at the pros, cons, and questions associated with the facility last year, this was the conclusion: “If you’d like to see an indoor facility, the good news is that there aren’t many higher priorities remaining.” Georgia’s coaches and administrators had given higher priority to other projects several times when funds became available, but this time there isn’t much else at the top of the list. Athletics director Greg McGarity explained, “It’s always been on our project sheet. We basically have priorities on that sheet. Some move up quicker than others.”

Even if the board decides to go forward with a facility, there are several specifics to be hammered out. These three questions cover most of them:

  1. Where will it go?
  2. What’s the scope (and cost) of the facility?
  3. Who will pay for it?

The location seems to be pinned down to the soccer/softball complex out on Milledge Ave. Ideally the facility would be adjacent to the on-campus practice fields, but there just isn’t the room. Neither the outdoor practice fields nor the track will be sacrificed for the facility. I had wondered about the vet school property with its large new campus set to open soon, but it looks as if most of the current vet school buildings will remain in use. So Milledge it is.

The scope is a little less certain, but $15 million is the number we’ve see most often. What does $15 million get you? For comparison, this is what Auburn got for $16.5 million in 2011. Clemson’s 2013 facility ran about $10 million, complete with videoboard. Virginia recently completed a similar facility for about $13 million.

Mark Richt’s initial vision called for a much more ambitious complex with offices, a weight room, a dining hall, and an indoor track. The price tag for that kind of project would have been well over $30 million. How would a scaled-back $15 million facility square with Richt’s vision? Much of what Richt wanted was accomplished with the $40 million Butts-Mehre expansion completed in 2011. From a football perspective, all that was missing was a 120-yard covered field. Georgia’s indoor facility won’t need many extras.

McGarity is clear that the athletic department won’t be footing the entire bill for whatever comes of this discussion. As with the ongoing Foley Field renovation, some level of private donations will have to be raised before athletic department funds kick in. “There will be a fundraising piece to this,” McGarity said. If the board does decide to go forward with the facility in September, expect those who have been calling for an indoor facility to be asked to show just how important it is to them.

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