ATHENS — Georgia has focused on one spot for its proposed indoor practice facility and is planning for it to be very expensive.
That’s the major news from the meeting of the Georgia athletics board Tuesday, when the plans for the facility were discussed in executive session for about 20 minutes. No news was announced afterwards, with no firm date set for an opening or even a groundbreaking.
But athletics director Greg McGarity said the project ultimately could cost “in the ballpark of $30 million.” That’s twice as much as similar projects, such as the just-announced indoor facility project at Florida.
“We have one chance to get it right,” McGarity said. “We do not want to compromise. This building will be here forever. So you have to think that way.”
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As for the location, the focus now is on the area just beyond the football team’s current outdoor practice fields, off of Lumpkin Street, and leading up to Stegeman Coliseum. It likely would force the removal of the Hoke Smith annex and its parking lot, among other things. It also would likely knock out Smith Street, a two-lane road that runs between the current practice fields and the Hoke Smith annex. It also potentially could cut into the team’s current lower outdoor practice fields.
The area including the proposed site is owned by Georgia and not the athletics association, which are two separate entities financially.
“It’s not within our fence line,” McGarity said of the proposed site. “It complicates things.”
So Georgia president Jere Morehead requested the board go into executive session to discuss a “real estate transaction.” No formal action was taken at the meeting itself. And while McGarity and Morehead declined to set a date for anything — at minimum no facility will be in place for the 2015 season — both said the process is moving.
“It’s going to move along rapidly,” Morehead said.
Georgia has been trying to get an indoor facility built for a long time, with head coach Mark Richt quietly lobbying for one for most of his 15 years as the head coach.
“It has been a challenge for 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.”
Morehead said the main priority was to get the indoor facility within the current football program’s “precinct,” as well as preserving the track adjoining the Butts-Mehre building. That track is used by both the public and Bulldogs sports teams.
The Hoke Smith annex currently houses the UGA Extension Service, a lifelong learning program.
“I assure you we’re not planning to displace anyone,” Morehead said. “If we have to move any employees, we’ll come up with a strategy for that, and that will be something we present to the Board of Regents when and if we make a proposal for that facility. That’s why we’re moving very carefully and very deliberately.”
There are artist renderings for the site, McGarity said, but they have only been shown to Georgia officials, rather than given to them, so they wouldn’t become public through Open Records requests.
Some of the cost for the project will come through fundraising, with the amount to be decided once there is a firm project estimate. McGarity acknowledged that some fundraising already has taken place “quietly.”
The estimated size of the facility is “roughly” 80 yards wide, 140 yards long and 65 feet high, according to McGarity. It could include other frills and features that would expand the footprint of the facility.
McGarity said there was plenty of red tape that needs to be cut through before ground can be broken, especially with the site being outside of the athletics department’s current land outline. Eventually the Board of Regents, which oversees all public universities in the state, has to approve the project.
“There’s just so many approval process that need to be completed,” McGarity said. “We’re starting that process now.”