ALBANY - The probable location for Georgia's indoor football facility has changed, and to head coach Mark Richt's liking.
The focus is now on putting the facility on the team's current grass practice fields, adjoining the team's current complex. That is likely to be the site that is recommended in late May, when the UGA athletic board meets.
At the previous athletic board meeting, in February, the focus was the site of the current Hoke Smith annex, which is just beyond the team's lower practice fields.
"We're probably not going in that direction right now," athletics director Greg McGarity said Tuesday, prior to a UGA Day event in Albany. "That was one site of many that we were looking at. But we knew we could accomplish this in many locations. ...
"If you go back and look at the designs for the building back in 1999 and 2000 it was kind of around where the grass fields were in that area, where the existing grass fields are. So I would say it will hopefully be in that quadrant close to the Butts-Mehre building."
Richt has been clamoring for the indoor facility since he was hired in 2001. He has also been asking for it to be close to the team's current complex, rather than proposed locations off-campus. It appears he will finally get his preferred choice.
"We're feeling really good that it's gonna be on our our precinct, or on our stamp of property, right there near the Butts-Mehre building," Richt said Tuesday. "It's gonna be right on our property, and we won't have to get on a bus to go there.
"That was the one thing I was fighting. It just didn't make enough sense to me to have it off-site. It would have been better than not having it. But when you build a facility like that, you want it to be good for not only the time that I'm at Georgia but years down the road."
Richt said he also felt good about what the facility would have inside of it. McGarity has estimated it could cost "in the ballpark" of $30 million.
"It's gonna be great. It's gonna be awesome," Richt said.
McGarity said the goal was to begin construction on the facility "at the completion of this season." He didn't know how long it would take to complete the proect, but expected it to at affect some the team's practices, presumably for the spring, and perhaps longer. McGarity pointed out that in 2010 construction on the football complex had the team in trailers on the current grass fields.
"We just want it done as quickly as we can," McGarity said.
A complicating factor with the Hoke Smith annex was that it is owned by the university, and not the athletics association. But McGarity said that didn't doom it as a site.
"I think that once we considered everything, there were other options," McGarity said. "But if you ask coach Richt where he would prefer the building to go, from day one he would tell you where we are currently looking is where he would have loved it from day one."
It likely means that the football team's practices and outdoor workouts will be impacted, it's just unknown to what degree. That will depend on the timing.
"It's definitely going to affect us. It's going to affect our way of operating," McGarity said.
McGarity said he doesn't expect the May meeting to include much discussion of a timeline or the total cost. But there does appear to be a general plan to have it be very expensive and for construction to begin early in 2016.
The one location that was ruled out very early was the outdoor track that is along Lumpkin Street, and adjoins the Butts-Mehre building. Its value to the university's community, being open to everyone, was too much.
"It's kind of a fixture, and it's our front door to facilities," McGarity said. "So we knew it was not available as a site location."