UGA faces hefty price on indoor practice facility

An indoor practice facility for the Georgia football team will cost “in the ballpark of $30 million,” UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity said Tuesday.

Despite the hefty price, McGarity said the UGA Athletic Association is “moving very quickly, as quickly as possible” toward building the facility.

A firm decision hasn’t been made on a timetable or site, but UGA is focused on a location off Lumpkin Street, near the football team’s outdoor practice fields and Stegeman Coliseum. The project “potentially” could mean that a university building would be torn down and a portion of the football team’s outdoor fields lost, McGarity said.

The indoor practice facility would be roughly 80 yards wide, 140 yards long and 65 feet high, McGarity said.

At $30 million, it would cost twice as much as the reported price for an indoor practice facility at the University of Florida, currently under construction. It would be paid for from Athletic Association funds and private donations.

“We have one chance to get it right, and we do not want to compromise,” McGarity said. “This building will be here forever. … We want to get everything we want in this building.”

McGarity made his comments to reporters after the UGA Athletic Association’s board of directors was briefed on the project in executive session — closed to the public and media — at Tuesday’s quarterly meeting. UGA president Jere Morehead, who serves as chairman of the Athletic Association board, cited discussion of a “real estate transaction” as the grounds for going into executive session.

Morehead and McGarity said later that the contemplated transaction involves university property.

“We did feel that it was important that we not start publicly discussing any potential buildings or streets or anything else that could be impacted by this facility without further reviewing those issues with the Board of Regents,” Morehead said. “… But in the end, I don’t think a whole lot is going to be not obvious to people as this moves along.

“And it’s going to move along rapidly, in my view.”

A university building, called the Hoke Smith Annex, and a parking lot are located on the proposed site.

McGarity declined to speculate on when construction might begin, but he previously ruled out having the facility ready for the 2015 football season.

UGA has been kicking around ideas for an indoor practice facility since at least the late 1990s. The concept gathered momentum last fall, when the Athletic Association board approved spending $400,000 for a feasibility study. The facility also will be used by UGA teams in other sports, McGarity said.

“It has been a challenge for almost two decades,” McGarity said, “so trying to come up with an option that makes the best sense for athletics and the university is the priority.”

Although the possibility of building elsewhere was explored recently, coach Mark Richt prefers to have the facility near the outdoor fields and the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall building, which houses the football offices and locker rooms.

“To me, the biggest issue is fitting it within this precinct while preserving the (nearby) track (facility),” Morehead said.

In other matters at Tuesday’s Athletic Association board meeting:

  • The board approved spending $4.96 million from reserve funds on a series of projects, including $3 million to refurbish Sanford Stadium’s “Sky Club,” $705,000 to upgrade stadium concessions stands and $300,000 on design fees for the addition of two courts to the indoor tennis facility.
  • UGA vice president for finance and administration Ryan Nesbit reported that the Athletic Association’s “currently available” reserves total $67.8 million.
  • McGarity announced that Carla Williams, the association’s No. 2 executive, has been promoted to deputy athletic director.

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