Mounds of red clay peeked over paneled construction fences Tuesday as the University of Georgia marked the official start of the UGA Indoor Athletic Facility with a ceremonial groundbreaking.
The forecast the day before—of icy rain and freezing temperatures—punctuated the need for a building where UGA athletes of all types—from track star Kendell Williams, who represented student athletes with her ceremony remarks, to the baseball players going through warmup exercises on Foley Field, to the UGA football team counting down until spring training—can practice without fear of the weather.
Construction on the $30 million facility began in December and is scheduled for completion in January 2017. It will include a 100-yard football practice field, a 65-meter track runway, jumping pits, a netting system, four retractable batting cages and other features that will maximize its use for UGA sports.
“This new state-of-the-art facility represents the University of Georgia’s commitment to providing our more than 550 talented student-athletes with the tools they need to succeed at the highest levels of competition,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead.
He specifically thanked donors of the Magill Society for going above and beyond to raise private funds for the project. J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity echoed his sentiments, noting that donors and friends of UGA have responded at an amazing pace, with signed pledges in hand for $20.3 million as of Tuesday.
“This is a first-class facility, and it’s going to enhance our ability to prepare and compete at a championship level,” said head football coach Kirby Smart. “… I want everybody to understand that we will be good keepers of this investment. We will utilize this facility all year long to train and develop our team.”
He joked that he was able to keep very close watch on the building’s progress-his office and its window directly overlooks the construction site-“so that the progress I get to see every day is both seen, felt and heard on a firsthand basis.”
Williams, a three-time national track and field champion, told attendees that “the facility puts an exclamation point” on the athletic association’s backing of student athletes. “We can’t wait until it’s ready.”
The new facility will be connected to the Butts-Mehre building addition and stretch north and south along the edge of Rutherford Street. Full dimensions of the football practice field will be 140 yards long and 80 yards wide. When completed, the Woodruff practice field complex will include the new indoor facility with artificial turf and two grass practice fields in the same location as the current artificial turf fields.
During construction this spring and fall, the football team will practice at a location off South Milledge Avenue near the UGA soccer-softball complex. The temporary practice area is currently part of the UGA club sports complex and will feature two full-length natural grass fields and one full-length artificial turf field. When the indoor facility is completed, the Athletic Association will return the significantly upgraded complex to the UGA club sports program.