Sanford Stadium Renovations Bring Praise, Criticism from Fans and Media

Sanford Stadium at UGA normally sits quiet during the football off-season.

But, this year is different.

The sound of heavy construction equipment fills the air along Sanford Drive as workers push forward on a $68.5 million renovation.

The massive construction project will feature improvements to the concession walkways and bathrooms in order to create more seating for premium donors. It will also create a brand new press box near the west end zone.

The process is to be split into two phases and spread across a timeline of two years. Phase 1 is expected to be complete by August of 2023, while Phase 2 will take place in the winter and summer following the Bulldogs’ 2023 football season.

 Why It’s Newsworthy: Sanford Stadium is undergoing major renovations that will have lasting effects on fans, boosters and media members alike. 
Sanford Stadium is undergoing major renovations that will have lasting effects on fans, boosters and media members alike. (Photo/Christian Kirby)

Though the project is far from finished, construction did affect fans and players during UGA’s spring game. The stadium’s capacity was limited to about 55,000 fans, which is just over half attendance for a regular season game in the fall.

“It was definitely weird to see half the Stadium empty,” said Drew Sheehan, a tight end for the Bulldogs. “I will say it was still a great environment because my sideline was on the side of the stadium where people were. I know the team really appreciated all the people that showed up to G-Day.”

Previous Updates

This is not the first time the University has made adjustments to the beloved stadium under head coach Kirby Smart. Just before the 2018 season, the university renovated a section in both the east and west end zones, which allowed for an additional recruiting lounge to be constructed. The updates also moved the team’s locker room from the east to the west end zone.

Sanford Stadium was at just half capacity for Georgia’s spring game [G-Day] on April 15. (Photo/Christian Kirby)

There was also an instance in 2004 when 27 sky suites were added to the north side of the stadium. This increased the stadium to its current capacity of approximately 92,746 people.

Reactions to the Updates

For the most part, these improvements were met with positive reactions from fans and donors, and this year’s revamping seems to be no different.

Clint Weatherby, a season ticket holder for more than five seasons voiced his excitement with the potential of expanded walkways and newer restrooms.

 

But another revamping of Sanford Stadium has seemingly brought mostly positive reactions from fans, donors, and even players. There is a group of individuals does not seem to be nearly as pleased with the upcoming changes.

Different media members have stated they are displeased with the stadium’s renovations, as the previous press room located near mid-field is being taken over to be used as donor suites. A new press box is expected to be constructed near the corner of the west end zone.

The new press box will be added to the South Tower. (Photo/Christian Kirby)

Though a new press box with updated facilities and technology would expectedly bring a lot of excitement and praise, the location of the new press box is the main concern for members of the media. Those who are in the media believe that a decent viewpoint and an ability to feel the environment during a game are essential to covering a story in sports. These are two things that will they believe will be greatly diminished once the press box is moved from its current location.

Opinions From Media Members

Andy Johnston, a sports media instructor at the University of Georgia and editor for The Oglethorpe Echo, has covered numerous games inside Sanford Stadium. He believes having a strong vantage point of a game and the action around it is essential to reporting on an event.

“It’s critical if you’re on-site at an event that you have a view of what’s happening,” Johnston said.  “And I have been at events where you sit court side, and it’s great because you can see both ends.”

Johnston also mentioned the negative effects being seated further away from the action has on a journalist. He added he was against the university moving the media’s press box from the 50 yard-line.

“Moving it to a corner, I understand the financial reasons behind it, but you don’t have that same view of the game,” he said. “You’re not seeing everything though basically the equal lens of the midfield.”

Samuel Higgs, a student at UGA and a writer for The Red & Black, also stated he was not a big fan of the renovations. But he did additionally mention that as a fan, he understood the excitement around the changes.

“I’m not the biggest fan of it. I just think it’s prioritizing some other people rather than the media. Especially being in the media, I feel that we should be somewhat prioritized,” said Higgs.

The Benefits of Prioritizing Donors

According to the data, however, prioritizing donors and boosters provides a major benefit to the team.

CBS Sports found that the University of Georgia spent over $4.5 million on recruiting in 2022, which is nearly $2 million more than the next SEC school Texas A&M. This is likely a major reason why the Bulldogs have brought in a top-five recruiting class or better for the previous five seasons and is likely what has led to Georgia’s back-to-back national titles in 2021 and 2022.

(Graphic/Christian Kirby)

While members of the media are understandably less excited about certain aspects of the update of Sanford Stadium, the overall benefit that it will bring to the school and athletic department for years to come likely will not be a point of contention.

Christian Kirby is a third-year student majoring in journalism.

 

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