ATHENS — Remember Georgia’s idea about demolishing the Hoke Smith Annex and building an indoor practice facility for football in its place? Scratch that.
UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity and football coach Mark Richt confirmed to reporters in Albany on Tuesday that is no longer the plan. Instead, the massive structure will be built right behind the Butts-Mehre Building, likely in the area of the existing natural grass practice fields.
“We’re probably not going in that direction right now,” McGarity said Tuesday of the Hoke Smith Annex plan. “We knew we could accomplish this in several locations, so we’re kind of focusing on some other areas in the vicinity of the Butts-Mehre. If you go back and look at the designs from the building in 1999-2000, it was around where the grass fields were, in that area. I would say it will hopefully be in that quadrant, close to the Butts-Mehre Building.”
That has always been the preferred location for Richt.
“I can tell you we feel really good it’s going to be in our precinct, in our stamp of property, right there near the Butts-Mehre Building,” Richt told reporters. “It’s gonna be great. It’s gonna be awesome.”
In 1998, when Jim Donnan was head football coach and Michael Adams the university president, there were plans to build an indoor practice facility on the existing football grounds paralleling Sanford Drive across from the baseball complex. However, those plans got shelved due to costs and aesthetic concerns.
Richt wanted an indoor facility built on existing grounds at least 10 years ago but instead settled for a $33 million football facilities expansion that was completed in 2010. It included a new locker room, a weight room, training room and coaches’ offices and the infamously-inadequate Nalley Multipurpose Facility.
The Atlanta architectural firm of Collins Cooper Carusi, which has been paid $400,000 to oversee the design phase of the current project, actually submitted renderings of seven site possibilities earlier this year. One, located in the parking lot between Foley Field and the Carlton Street parking deck was summarily rejected. The other six were within the general footprint of the existing athletic grounds.
The Hoke Annex plan was the exception, with the proposed boundaries spilling over Smith Street from the current artificial-grass fields and onto existing university land. But that created complications with the Board of Regents with regard to real estate acquisition and university faculty and staff displacement.
Based on the comments of McGarity and Richt, it appears that project managers now have settled on the area closest to the Butts-Mehre Building. That would likely mean digging up the refurbished natural grass fields and laying waste to hundreds of thousands of dollars of improvements recently done to the football complex, including new video towers and two brand new FieldTurf surfaces.
“We don’t know the exact areas where there would be the construction zone, but we know it’s going to impact our facility, our practice plans,” McGarity said. “We just don’t know to what degree at this point in time.”
McGarity said the goal is to begin construction immediately after the season ends. The Bulldogs’ last home game is Nov. 21 against Georgia Southern. How long it might take to complete is still a guess at this point, but at the very least it will impact the Bulldogs’ 2016 spring practice session.
“We just want it done as quickly as we can,” McGarity said.
Indoor practice facilities are the latest battleground in the facilities arms race that has been raging in college football and the SEC in particular. Georgia is the last of the SEC’s 14 teams to commit to building an indoor facility. Florida, the next-to-last, is in the construction phase of a new $15 million facility that is scheduled to be completed by this fall.
Collins Cooper Carusi estimates construction cost for Georgia’s building to be $26,165,001, according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution per open record requests. Officially, the building is referred to as the “Indoor Athletic Facility,” since it will be utilized by other sports, primarily baseball and track and field. The Bulldogs promise not to cut corners.
“We have one chance to get it right, and we do not want to compromise,” McGarity said earlier this year. “This building will be here forever. We want to get everything we want in this building.”