Construction is set to begin Monday at the University of Georgia on the conversion of Sanford Stadium's press box into club seating for spectators.
As reported by the Athens Banner-Herald, the open-air press box, built in 1967 when a second deck was added to the stadium, is closing Saturday night, after the Bulldogs host Ole Miss in a battle of two top-10 teams.
“It’s a little bit dated, but the view is fantastic,” said ESPN reporter Mark Schlabach, who figures he’s covered more than 100 Georgia home games starting in 1993 including as a writer for The Red & Black, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Washington Post, as reported by Marc Weiszer of the Banner-Herald. “I prefer open air press boxes so you can hear the crowd and feel the excitement.”
A new multilevel press box will be constructed in the southwest corner of the stadium as part of the $68.5 million two-phase renovation of Sanford Stadium.
Designed by HOK, the new press box will be ready in time for the 2024 season. It will replace a press box at midfield that has 143 seats with countertops and offers some of the best views of the game, particularly those between the 40-yard lines. A third row was added to the current press box in the early 1980s.
A TV booth was added in the 1990s and 26 additional theater-style seats, upgraded countertops and floor heaters for cold weather games were added in 1999 when the press box was named for longtime SID and tennis coach Dan Magill. The current press box has also seen upgrades to its bathrooms.
Replacing the current space with a new corner press box continues a trend, according to Weiszer. Auburn’s relocated press box is in a corner of Jordan-Hare Stadium overlooking an end zone. So are the press boxes at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., where the national championship game was played in January, and Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where the SEC championship game is held.
What Georgia is doing in relocating the press box “is today’s norm of what all new construction is moving towards,” said Tanner Stines, the school’s associate athletic director for facilities and capital projects.
Dennis Dodd, a former Football Writers Association of America president, said press boxes at midfield “are going away. Every rendering I’ve seen of a new stadium or stadium renovation is putting the press box in the corner because those seats are too valuable. That’s not what we like, but I certainly get it.”
Georgia's current press box located on the 200 level will become the 1929 Club — the year the stadium opened — offering views from the South side similar to the Champions Club on the North side of the stadium with exterior seating.
The spots will go well-heeled donors, likely Silver Circle members who have given $1 million in lifetime contributions, Stines said.
“We have so many donors who supported us, especially the last few years, that we need more premium areas to offer them,” UGA athletic director Josh Brooks said. “It’s always a challenge to create more premium spaces.”
The TV network broadcast booths and the home and visiting coaches boxes will remain at the current location but will be rebuilt.
The new two-level enclosed press box will be built on Levels 4 and 5 next to what’s currently the South suites. The view will be at about the goal line to the 5-yard line but the aim is to minimize restrictive sight lines from that vantage point, Stines said. A bank of screens will be placed all the way across the press box’s glass windows to include the scoreboard, the TV broadcast and other games. A bistro style dining area will be included with two and four-person top tables.
The top level will be for writers, and a level below will offer more seating for media, booths for the Georgia Bulldog Radio Network and other radio booths, as well as the clock operator and replay booth. The lower level will feature six premium suites for fans.
The current press box still has copper wiring and analog phone systems and the new press box will run on fiber optic cable. Georgia consulted ESPN to make sure the rebuilt broadcast space will have the latest technologies needed, Weiszer reported.