ATHENS - Scott Stricklin's first season as Georgia's head baseball coach is already off to a good start, and the season opener is still a week away.
UGA will spend $12 million to renovate Foley Field, giving a much-needed jolt to the nearly 50-year-old facility. The UGA athletic board signed off on the project Thursday night.
Last summer UGA announced an effort to raise money to renovate Foley Field. The stated goal was to raise half of the project, initially set at $10 million, through private funds. Since the initial announcement of the fund drive, the cost of the project was extended by $2 million.
The $5 million has not actually been hit yet, but athletics director Greg McGarity said they're close enough (about $500,000 away) that they feel comfortable going forward. In fact a gift described as six figures was donated on Thursday.
McGarity said they didn't want to delay construction because of the expected new stadiums in Atlanta, for the Braves and Falcons, creating a better market for the construction market.
"We had to get in before they got started in Atlanta," McGarity said.
The timeline for beginning renovations is as soon as the 2014 season is over, with the goal of being complete by the 2015 season opener. The seating capacity will remain unchanged, at around 3,000, but there will be 75 club seats added behind home plate, and 125 in the press box.
McGarity asked the UGA finance committee on Jan. 14 to recommend approval of the project, according to a document provided during Thursday night's meeting of the UGA athletic board.
"We just feel like it's time," McGarity said to the board, pointing out that the last extensive renovation was in 1990.
Meanwhile, McGarity asked for spending on some smaller projects: $700,000 for upgrades to the swimming and diving locker rooms, and $500,000 for upgrades to Stegeman Coliseum office spaces.
But some wanted to spend more on the Ramsey Center, specifically on support facilities for the team. (Not the pool itself.) Pat Pittard, a board member, spoke up to argue that the the plan "isn't aggressive enough." And swimmer Andrew Gemmell, a student member of the board, spoke up in basic agreement.
"The pool itself is gorgeous. the other stuff is lacking," Gemmell said.
McGarity replied that the matter would be considered further.
Finally, the board was asked to approve new uniforms for the Redcoat band, whose current uniforms are about 10 years old. That's 500 uniforms at about $450 per uniform.
No football indoor facility soon
While the baseball team is getting its stadium renovated, the football team will continue to wait for a full-length indoor practice facility. It didn't even come up in the meeting.
"It wasn't on the radar," McGarity said.
McGarity remains open to building a new indoor facility eventually, but it is not on the front burner.
"That's about a $15 million project when that comes around," McGarity said. "We've got so much to focus on right now. We've got to get our practice fields back. We just want to finish those on time. Focus on baseball, focus on these things right now to get them up to speed before the next academic year starts."
There is money being spend facility-wise for football: Construction began recently on the area around the two lower artificial turf fields. Those will not be available to the team for spring practice, so the Bulldogs will be limited to the two upper grass fields.