Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATHENS --- The University of Georgia Athletic Association's board of directors voted Thursday to spend $12 million on a major renovation of the Bulldogs' baseball stadium, fast-tracking the project in an attempt to get ahead of the stadium-building boom 70 miles away.
"The problem is, if you delay, you know what's going on in Atlanta," UGA athletic director Greg McGarity said in an interview after the board meeting.
"There's going to be (almost $2 billion spent) between the Falcons' and the Braves' new stadiums. So we knew we have to get in before they start work in Atlanta because a lot of our (contractors and sub-contractors) may be going to Atlanta."
Work on Foley Field will begin immediately after Georgia's 2014 baseball season and will be completed by the start of the 2015 season, McGarity said.
The Falcons plan to start construction in April on a $1.2 billion stadium that will take three years to build in downtown Atlanta, while the Braves are expected to start construction on a $672 million stadium in Cobb County late this year or early next year.
Georgia originally planned to hold off on renovating Foley Field until it raised at least $5 million in private pledges for the project. McGarity said commitments from former baseball players and others have put UGA within about $400,000 of that goal.
"We're getting very close to that $5 million, and we're very comfortable we'll get there," said McGarity, who reported that a six-figure pledge was received as recently as Thursday morning. "We just feel it's time."
The board agreed, unanimously approving the use of $12 million from the Athletic Association's reserve funds for the project with the stipulation that at least $5 million will be returned to the reserves as pledges are paid.
The Athletic Association has $71.7 million in reserve funds, but board member Bob Bishop pointed out it has more than that --- about $108 million --- in long-term debt from various other facilities projects over the years.
The planned changes to Foley Field include an expanded concourse; new locker rooms, lounge and training areas for players; 75 new club seats with access to a field-level "VIP lounge" behind home plate; and 125 new club seats on the press level.
Also, the press box will be rebuilt, concessions stands updated, restrooms renovated and an elevator added.
The stadium's overall seating capacity will not change.
Foley Field is a 3,300-seat stadium on UGA's south campus near Stegeman Coliseum, the football practice fields and the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall athletics building. Georgia's baseball team has played at that location since 1966, and the facility has been called Foley Field since 1968.
The stadium was refurbished at a cost of $3.5 million in 1990. Since then, it has gotten occasional improvements but not such an extensive renovation, McGarity said. McGarity promised the board that the cost of the renovation will not exceed the budgeted $12 million.
"I won't let it creep (up)," he said.
Delaying the project would add about 3 percent annually to the cost, McGarity said, and perhaps more if the Falcons and Braves stadiums drive up costs over the next few years.
Georgia hired a new baseball coach, Scott Stricklin, after last season. The Bulldogs open the season at Foley Field on Feb. 14 against Georgia Southern.
At Thursday's meeting, the Athletic Board also approved several smaller projects at a combined cost of about $1.5 million from reserve funds. Those expenditures include renovations to the swimming and diving teams' locker rooms in the Ramsey Center, renovations to the fourth-floor offices in Stegeman Coliseum and new game-day uniforms for UGA's Redcoat Marching Band.