Foley Field has a unique feel that is not commonly seen in SEC baseball programs. It is tucked between a quiet Athens neighborhood and the campus of the University of Georgia.
However, Foley Field has fallen behind when compared to other stadiums in the SEC when it comes to facilities for the players and fans.Why It’s Newsworthy: The University of Georgia plans to spend $45 million on facility upgrades on Foley Field, home of the UGA baseball team.
“Your facilities are a direct reflection of your investment in that sport,” said Tanner Stines, associate athletic director for facility operations and capital projects at the University of Georgia. “If you are not doing something to enhance those pretty much all the time, and your peers are, then you are falling behind.”
The University of Georgia will build and upgrade many of the facilities for the baseball team. These upgrades will include a player’s lounge, an indoor hitting cage, pitching lab, coaches’ offices, added premium seating and an extended canopy that will offer more shade to fans in the stadium’s current seating. Throughout the process, the current locker rooms will also be upgraded.
Alongside those changes, an additional 230 seats will also be added, bringing up seating capacity in Foley Field to nearly 3,700. In total, the project will cost around $45 million, and construction will begin this summer.
The University of Georgia wanted to improve facilities for both the student-athlete experience and individual player improvement. The baseball team works without any indoor pitching facilities at the moment and only has two hitting cages. This leads the team to have to work around factors such as weather; pitchers lose an entire day of practice whenever there is bad weather.
Players will now be able to have more flexible schedules when it comes to batting and pitching practice, and coaches will move into the stadium with the new offices.
Stines believes all these changes will cut down on wasted time and improve practice efficiency.
Georgia’s baseball game attendance varies greatly from game to game, depending on the opponent, and rarely ever sells out. While fans are not the primary reason for the construction, Stines does believe it will have an effect on the fan attendance.
He said there are multiple reasons Georgia’s games lack steady, high attendance.
One reason is the competition in the surrounding area that draws fans away.
“Uniquely here in Athens, you are competing with downtown Athens, the Braves, and other Georgia sports,” said Stines. “You might get a fan for one of the three, but you may not get them for all three games.”
However, Stines also said he believes winning drives fan attendance, and he hopes that these upgrades to the facilities will help Georgia win more games.
Recruiting in the SEC
Recruiting players in the SEC is not an easy task in baseball. The SEC is consistently one of the best conferences in college baseball year-in and year-out, so it is necessary to recruit at a high level to be successful. Four out of the last five college baseball national champions have come from the SEC. Alongside success, facilities play a role in a recruit’s decision.
“If I were a high-profile recruit, even coming from the state of Georgia, I would have a tough time choosing UGA over schools such as Arkansas and LSU because of subpar baseball facilities,” said Davis Lamb, lifelong Georgia baseball fan and senior at the University of Georgia.
For example, Dudy Noble Stadium, Mississippi State’s baseball stadium, holds five times more fans than Foley Field. Mississippi State’s facilities’ most recent upgrade cost around $70 million, while Georgia’s most recent spent only $12 million.
Delays and Time
These upgrades are overdue based on the University of Georgia’s athletic facilities standards. However, there are reasons why this is just now happening.
“I think it probably would have started a little bit earlier,” said Stines. “COVID put a pause on everything, so everything piled up. Some projects that might not have been as big as four years ago have really caught up to us.”
Now that construction is ready to begin, fans still should not expect a quick turnaround. Some materials, such as air conditioning and electrical equipment, can take a year to get. Utility work and other work that needs to be done ahead of time is planned to begin around June. Between the 2024 and 2025 season is when fans can expect to see actual buildings beginning being constructed.
Fans are hoping for greater success in the coming years for the Georgia Baseball team. Georgia has been competitive, but has struggled to make deep runs in the SEC and NCAA Baseball Tournaments. With new facilities on the way, Georgia Baseball fans are hoping for the team to make the jump in recruiting and performance — similar to that of the football team.
Lamb believes these upgrades will do just that.
“These plans for the baseball facility will undoubtedly influence more athletes to choose the University of Georgia,” Lamb said.
Ethan Wells is a third-year student majoring in journalism.
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