The Georgia baseball program, which has slipped into a moribund state, continues to aim for a revival. First came the hiring of a new coach, and now comes a renewed effort to spruce up its home field.
UGA announced a new fundraising effort to improve Foley Field, aiming to raise $10 million that will provide what the school calls "a drastic facelift." While $10 million is the official figure, the aim is to get at least $5 million, at which point the UGA athletic department would match it.
“What we are going to do next is going to wow people,” head coach Scott Stricklin, who was hired a couple weeks ago, said in a statement. “At some point, when a recruit is on this campus, we need them to say wow. And that is what Foley Field is going to be in the very near future.”
Georgia averaged 1,940 fans for home games this season, which ranked 11th in the SEC, and 35th in the nation. The dip in attendance was easily attributed to a mediocre team, which led to the firing of head coach David Perno and Stricklin's hiring. But Foley Field, which is now 25 years old, could also use some work.
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“It is time for Foley Field to regain its former glory,” athletics director Greg McGarity said in a statement. “The visionaries choosing to become so meaningfully involved in the program will not only help offset the cost of the $10 million project, but also will forever be associated with this monumental commitment to the future of Georgia Baseball and Foley Field.”
Plans call for a new locker room, lounge and training area for players, a larger concourse and two club-seating areas for fans. The press box would also be remodeled, and the entrance to the stadium would get a "fresh look," according to a press release.
An outline of the plan can be seen here.
Now here comes the sticky question: Georgia currently has a reserve fund of about $70 million, so why not just take from that, rather than ask for money from donors?
McGarity, in an interview, said using the reserve fund should be the last resort.
“It would be like you or me dipping into our 401K. You only want to do that when it’s absolutely necessary," McGarity said. "In the meantime, we do feel like there will be a response from our donors to raise 50 percent of the funds necessary for this. That is a funding model that was used at the University of Florida on projects of this nature, and it’s one that we’re going to use on this model also, and basically do it up front.
“Sure, there are a lot of things that we could do with our reserve. But what we want to do is use that reserve only when it’s essential to use. ... The reason we are in such good financial shape is that’s been sort of a philosophy for a number of years: use the reserve when that’s absolutely the only option you have. And in a situation like this, there are other options.”
This isn't the only fundraising effort underway right now: Georgia is also seeking $6 million for the equestian program, which as of last year became a full-fledged SEC sport.
McGarity said there is no specific time frame for the baseball fundraising, other than "the sooner the better." It will not be in time for the stadium improvements to be made for the 2014 season, but the hope is that it could happen soon after that.