Michael Adams is right about keeping Sanford Stadium open

Michael Adams opposes closing the west end of Sanford Stadium. (Associated Press)

Michael Adams opposes closing the west end of Sanford Stadium. (Associated Press)

I know the knee-jerk reaction among many Bulldogs fans is to ridicule or dismiss any statement having to do with sports coming from Michael Adams, but I find myself very much in agreement with something the outgoing UGA president said last week in his final State of the University speech.

Said Adams, who steps down as president June 30:

“I will close this item with a plea. The next, and probably last time, that Sanford Stadium is expanded, it should be done on the east end, taking the capacity to 102,000-104,000, which is frankly all that the roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure can handle.

“The west end should remain open. The visible interconnection with and view of the central campus is more than just a pretty scene — it is a powerful statement about the appropriate place of athletics at a great public university.

“Despite the logistical challenges it poses, I am glad that our stadium is in the middle of campus, and being able to see the Tate Center, the Miller Learning Center, the Russell Library, the Baxter Street residence halls and, soon, a new Bolton Hall and the Terry College complex reinforces the important idea that athletics at UGA is part of the whole, not an entity unto itself.

“I will come back and haunt the president and athletic director who close the west end of the stadium.”

Adams is right, and not just because of the aesthetic benefits of the campus view through the west end zone or the logistical limitations. Basically, in the foreseeable future UGA isn’t likely to need more than 102,000 to 104,000 seats — if that many — no matter how successful the football program is.

It’s likely that we’re seeing the end of the era of college football stadium expansions in general. The regular season attendance in college football dropped to the lowest level since 2003 last season, according to a study done by the Birmingham News. And while the SEC again led the country with an average of 75,444 fans per game, that was the lowest since the 2007 season. Overall, college football attendance is down 2 percent since the 2008 peak of 76,844. Schools also have been having trouble selling postseason tickets.

Sanford is still mostly sold out, but just barely for some games, and overall UGA registered a minor attendance decrease in 2012 with an average of 92,723. And that was in a successful season in which the Dogs won their second consecutive SEC East title.

There are already more than enough seats for games against teams like New Mexico State. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

There are already more than enough seats for games against teams like New Mexico State. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

There are several factors at play here.

Factoring in the price of the tickets and the minimum required donation to buy them, the News figured that Georgia had the second most expensive season tickets in 2012 at an average $75.71.

Amid a struggling economy and rising ticket prices, more fans are deciding they don’t really need the hassle of attending a game in person — especially if it’s against a no-name nonconference foe — when they can sit and enjoy it all on their flat-screen high definition television in the comfort of their own home. (Thus the attempts to make the in-person game experience more conducive to luring folks away from home by adding extras such as additional replays on the big screen in the stadium and calls from fans for increased cellphone access at games.)

Most fans still will attend a game against a quality opponent if they can afford a ticket, but in the future that decision is likely to be made on a more selective basis.

So fans will be attending fewer games, and UGA doesn’t need to be building more seats that may sit empty several times per season. Assuming the program continues to thrive on the field, the Dogs probably can fill 102,000 seats for conference games and quality nonconference games.

And that sounds like plenty. So Adams is right in opposing the idea of enclosing Sanford completely.

MORE CONCERTS AT SANFORD?

Jason Aldean and Harry Dawg onstage at a UGA pep rally. (The Greenroom PR)

Jason Aldean and Harry Dawg onstage at a UGA pep rally. (The Greenroom PR)

Back when I was in journalism school at UGA, a couple of classmates and I did a series for The Red & Black as a class project on whether concerts at Sanford Stadium were feasible.

We showed they were, but the athletic administration at the time was completely opposed and remained so for a long time. In the 1980s, then-athletic director Vince Dooley turned down a chance to have Bruce Springsteen play Between the Hedges, and a proposed R.E.M. charity concert also didn’t come off.

Now, though, we’ve had a sort of generational shift in the thinking at Butts-Mehre, and Greg McGarity is testing the waters with the April 13 Jason Aldean concert at Sanford, the first ever held at the stadium.

Dooley, and before him Joel Eaves, always worried that having a concert in the stadium would damage the field, but now there are better ways of covering the turf and protecting it.

While the Aldean show, announced at a Legion Field football pep rally last fall, has been set up as a break-even proposition for UGA, not a money-maker, McGarity said the main benefit is in giving a spring economic boost to Athens restaurants, hotels and other businesses that profit from UGA football games.

McGarity, who saw concerts staged at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium when he was at the University of Florida, told the Athens Banner Herald that the Aldean show, which sold out quickly, could lead to more concerts being staged at Sanford Stadium.

“It may be an opportunity to where we can maybe (in the future) take more of an active role in a project of this nature,” McGarity said. “We’re just hoping we have great weather and will be able to enjoy a night of great music.”

I’m sorry it took 40 years for the athletic association to come around to what we were proposing back in 1973, but I’m glad my daughter will get to experience the first ever concert at Sanford.

GREATEST MOMENT AT THE STEG?

Following up on my two blogs on memories of Stegeman Coliseum, voting at Georgiadogs.com on the greatest moment in the arena’s history has reached the round of four. It’s down to this:

Silver Bracket: 
Jan. 3, 2004 — Georgia upsets Georgia Tech 83-80
. Georgia upset 3rd-ranked and previously unbeaten Georgia Tech 83-80 in double overtime behind a career-high 25 points from senior Jonas Hayes.

Red Bracket: 
Feb. 25, 1990 — UGA Students Storm Court After 86-85 Comeback Win over LSU. In his final home game for the Bulldogs, Alec Kessler scored 30 points and helped Georgia overcome a 19-point, second-half deficit to defeat 12th-ranked LSU 86-85. The victory gave Georgia a 1-game lead in the SEC standings as the league schedule entered its final week. It also touched off a wild on-court celebration by UGA students.

Black Bracket: 
Feb. 23, 1996 — Lichey’s Perfect 40 Score. The Gym Dogs’ Karin Lichey became the only gymnast in college history to post four perfect 10s in Georgia’s win over Kentucky.

White Bracket: Apr. 25, 2008 — Gym Dogs Win Fourth NCAA Championship. Georgia tied Utah for the most NCAA titles by winning the fourth of five straight championships.

You can vote here as often as you’d like.

Got something you want to discuss about UGA athletics? Got a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? If so, send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

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Favorite sports memories from 50 years at Stegeman Coliseum

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50 comments Add your comment

ATLNative

January 30th, 2013
11:05 am

I was on the Univ. Union concert committee at the time and loved the Hank, Jr./Leon Russell show at the Steg around 1984. We all fainted and argued at the idea of turning down Sprinsteen, but it was not to be. Hope Jason A. has a great show!

beanster

January 30th, 2013
11:19 am

I am curious as to how a 70K attendee concert can’t be profitable?

Good stuff, Bill.

Barry Hollander

January 30th, 2013
11:41 am

As a UGA prof, I agree with Adams (and Bill) that the stadium should remain open on the west end and here’s another reason — it’s visually striking, that view from Sanford Bridge. It impresses visitors, it impresses recruits, it impresses the hell out of me when I cross the bridge. Yes, there’s a psychological benefit as well. It makes the stadium “part of” rather than “apart from” campus and integrates it into the mission of the school.

The Evil Genius

January 30th, 2013
11:55 am

Greatest moment in Stanford Stadium was in 1995 when I hung “a half a hundred” on the Mutts.

Bill King

January 30th, 2013
12:08 pm

Beanster:
UGA is being paid $250,000 for the venue, which will cover its costs. The school is not promoting the show itself and so won’t take the profits from it.

Bright Idea

January 30th, 2013
12:11 pm

I think very few UGA fans and alumni want the west end enclosed. Not sure where Adams was coming from on that other than to remind us that he will still be in charge, though unofficially. A bigger question is how about an indoor practice building.

Goober Pyle

January 30th, 2013
12:33 pm

The symmetry of the most beautiful stadium in college football (all of football, for that matter) was ruined by the poorly designed addition of the upper deck – forever making Sanford look like a pieced together hot mess.

UGA89

January 30th, 2013
12:49 pm

It gives me goosebumps when I look out the open end of Sanford Stadium at the beautiful campus on a fall day from my seat. I love that our stadium is in the middle of campus and watching the people on the bridge trying to get a glimpse of the field.
EVIL GENIUS…if you are trying to put UGA down try getting the name of our stadium correct. You’re a genius??? I think not.

bham dawg

January 30th, 2013
12:56 pm

how can you “barely sell out a stadium”?

UGA89

January 30th, 2013
1:13 pm

Evil Genius… If you are going to try and put down UGA it might be in your best interest to get the name of our stadium correct. Genius??? I think not.

Joe

January 30th, 2013
1:25 pm

“The symmetry of the most beautiful stadium in college football (all of football, for that matter) was ruined by the poorly designed addition of the upper deck – forever making Sanford look like a pieced together hot mess.”

Exactly! They just threw that up there without any concern for aesthetics. Now all of a sudden they’re concerned with aesthetics.

yessa

January 30th, 2013
1:57 pm

The open end stresses the wonderful part of Sanford being an on campus stadium. You would think most colleges have on campus stadiums, but not all do.
Another Bulldog Point of Pride!

Bill King

January 30th, 2013
2:39 pm

bham dawg:

When it takes you until game time to sell all the tickets, you’ve barely sold it out.

DCJohn

January 30th, 2013
3:08 pm

Absolutely agree Bill. Nothing was better than being a student and walking by Sanford Stadium everyday waiting till the next home game. Whether it was a week away or six months, looking into the empty stadium while waiting with anticipation was one of the best feelings while a student at Georgia.

Erk

January 30th, 2013
4:30 pm

Terrible parking logistics is another reason people stay home and watch on t.v. It can be near impossible to meet up with friends to tailgate if you don’t have a parking pass.

Northside Dawg

January 30th, 2013
4:54 pm

I believe it was in late summer or early fall of 1985 when Springsteen was in the south for stadium concerts. He did 2 shows at the Orange Bowl in Miami, but bypassed Atlanta & Athens, I assume, because none of the stadiums (Atlanta Stadium, Grant Field & Sanford Stadium) seemed to be available.

GAdevildawgs

January 30th, 2013
6:43 pm

I hope that the east end is never closed. Though I would love to see a future redesign of the stadium planned for the future. The problem is that the stadium is not fan friendly. The gentle sloping away from the field puts the fans much farther away from the field than at other venues. How about real seats for the non students? I predict the next wave in future college arms race will be nicer stadium amenities to keep the alumni attending home games as opposed to watching in HDTV. The stadium is beautiful but the problem is that with that main structural flaw it really needs a major overhaul. The entrance renovations have been great but the problem is that with the addition of the 600 level it was akin to the neighbor who encloses their garage to turn it into another bedroom/family room.

GAdevildawgs

January 30th, 2013
6:47 pm

west end….not east end.

ozzfest

January 30th, 2013
10:04 pm

First and foremost…it is really sad that the marquee “first concert ever”….is…Jason Aldean(???)
Doughboy with a ripped up shirt and a cowboy hat…wow…how very original.

Secondly, somebody should ask McGarrity about the 2020-2021 Ohio State series which OSU cancelled to clear the way for the Big 10 vs Pac 12 to play a series of games. That series has also been canvelled and Ohio state has responded by scheduling Oregon for the 2020-2021 seasons to replace Georgia. (It is only a coincidence Oregon is in the Pac 12…this series is unrelated to the conference series which had been proposed.)

You would think if Orgon and Ohio State are getting ahead of everybody else and scheduling 10 years out in anticipation of the increase in the STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE component of the PLAYOFF system, that Mr. McGarrity could chime in and tell us what he plans to do.

Natureboy809

January 30th, 2013
10:16 pm

Not saying that they need it right now, but there is probably room on each corner of the West end zone to add 2000 seats or so without closing it in.

Resident Georgia Fan

January 30th, 2013
10:26 pm

And it’s nice now and then to get a wee bit of wind!

JACKIE

January 30th, 2013
10:46 pm

THEY SHOULD DO SOMETHING TO RE-ARRANGE ANY NEW SEATS TO BE ELEVATED LIKE THE NEW SEATS AT ATLANTA RACEWAY.

Matt321

January 30th, 2013
11:08 pm

When you put 75 bucks for an average ticket, it looks almost reasonable – now multiply that number by a whole season’s worth of games, and buy tickets for a family of 4.

Gee, I wonder why it’s hard to sell out games.

The Ghost of Tim Worley

January 31st, 2013
12:25 am

Funny how everyone opposed to more seats already has a seat in the Stadium. Yes, keep out the masses so we can enjoy the game.

Dawg Patrol

January 31st, 2013
5:53 am

The price of tickets has just about eliminated the middle class family man from attending home games. As the price of tickets continues to go up, the attendance at the games will continue to go down.

Senator Blutosky

January 31st, 2013
6:57 am

Yes, I can remember, as a student for 7 years at UGA, many a beautiful fall afternoon in Sanford Stadium. Indeed, looking out of the open end of the stadium at all those beautiful buildings, and wondering what in the hell they were there for!

Jay in VA

January 31st, 2013
8:02 am

No more enlargements! In fact I’d be in favor of dismantling that add on visitors deck on the north side. Tired of looking at empty seats, even at “sold out” games. The enlargement to 85,000 back in 1981 was the right size. Oliver Luck, AD at West Virginia, had a great answer when asked why they don’t enlarge their stadium. He said tickets to their games should be high demand, so that those who are there are the ones that most want to be there. I agree. Let the wine and cheese fans watch from home!

DrDawg

January 31st, 2013
9:18 am

Adams destroyed tailgaiting years ago which caused thousands of fans and alumni to give up. In the good old days you could park your car and stay with it along with your food and refreshments. Now you have to buy an overpriced parking pass (if you are lucky enough to be chosen in the parking lottery), then you have to carry your chairs and coolers several hundred yards back and forth. When you weigh the lack of true tailgaiting and other barriers that Adams created, it is just better to stay home and be home the minute the game is over. Adams never tailgaited in his life and he destroyed a long, treasured tradition. It is a shame he will be allowed to attend in the future in his Skybox protected from the weather and the hassle.

Dunwoody Dawg

January 31st, 2013
9:50 am

Stadium expansion shouldn’t be in consideration until they figure out how to get the students back into the stadium on time and in numbers. I can understand being less than enthused when we’re playing New Mexico St or the likes, however even for big SEC games certain student sections usually don’t fill until the 2nd quarter, if it fills at all. I’m not sure what the deal is with the west endzone seats; those weren’t student seats in my day and were always full. The upper north/east sections, i.e. +/-210, were fraternity block seating in my day and we made darn sure that we were there otherwise someone else would take our block. I know that the administration has tried different things to get the students back but whatever they are doing doesn’t seem to be working.

JB

January 31st, 2013
10:10 am

I hear from some older Alum/season ticket holders that 3:30 starts and night games are just too much day for them. Then, the young set hate 1 o’clock games. Can’t please them all.

UGA Insider

January 31st, 2013
10:14 am

Worried about NSD… not about Adams and his pathetic comments. What he basically told you was he was willing and fine with the fact that he purposely ruined tail-gating and made expansion near impossible. You will continue to see attendance drop if things don’t change.

JB

January 31st, 2013
10:31 am

Adams also very happy with football. Interested in being competitive, not Championships. Remember his “football school” comment. He’s jealous of Vandy.

Mr. Chill

January 31st, 2013
1:42 pm

Close the west end. Attendance only slightly declined in 2012? Anyone notice that the ECONOMY has more than “barely” declined over the same years? Other stadiums are FAR more intimidating to play in – our acoustics would be WAY better with the west end closed.

DawginNY

January 31st, 2013
3:27 pm

The main reason Sanford Stadium is never confused with Death Valley in terms of crowd noise is that we are not a bowl. Why do you think people put their MP3 players in cups? Reverberation is powerful.

Johnny DangerDawg

January 31st, 2013
7:52 pm

Bill, you mention that economic troubles make people less likely to buy a ticket to a football game. But it’s not so much the ticket prices that are the problem as much as high gas prices. Folks from Atlanta are having to cut costs in this tough economy, and the rising cost of gas has made the trip to Athens seem unaffordable.

zulucanibal

January 31st, 2013
7:54 pm

Jason who??? what type of joke concert is this? I mean with the deep rooted music that comes from Athens, this is the best offer for a spring show? Some hack in ripped up jeans and cowboy hat singing thoughtless songs of cheese….great! just great.

AltamahaDawg

January 31st, 2013
8:43 pm

Killed tailgating…..ha. you ladies are hysterical. .

I OWN that little square inch that was getting torn up, so thank you Dr. Adams for caring enough about our campus to put some very common sense rules about parking on public property.

My crew has never missed a beat in our tailgating.

AltamahaDawg

January 31st, 2013
8:50 pm

Adams has been right about a lot of things, including the common sense rules pertaining to game day parking and tailgating. Whoever was president at the time would have done the same thing. Trashing him, despite knowing that the policy was correct is so overplayed at this point, isn’t it?

AltamahaDawg

January 31st, 2013
9:03 pm

The Stadium holds close to 100,000. The amount of Georgia fans who refused to travel to see the Dawgs play and stay home, because they can’t jump thier SUV up on the landscaping on South campus at 6:30 am, is how many…….a handful? a few hundred? a thousand? (doubtful). Now how many new graduates are there every year going into the ticket pool? Many times more than that.

I feel pretty confident that IF those folks actually did give up thier season tickets, they were quickly purchased.

AltamahaDawg

January 31st, 2013
9:06 pm

UGA graduate many more new ticket purchaser every year, that the handful of folks that gave up thiers because they can’t park on the landscaped lawn of South Campus at 6:00am game day.

AltamahaDawg

January 31st, 2013
9:13 pm

UGA graduated mutiple times more new ticket holder, every single year,,,,,than the one time handful of folks who gave up thier seats, because they couldn’t get to town at 5:00 am on game day and park on the landscaped lawns of South Campus.

Gman 84

February 1st, 2013
12:52 am

With the tailgating restrictions, noon game times against no-name foes and sweltering September temps, it’s a pretty easy call to save a couple of hundred bucks and watch at home. Even so UGA was second in attendance last year.

Below is a rundown of attendance figures for all 14 SEC schools:
Alabama: 101,722 (minor decrease)
Georgia: 92,723 (minor decrease)
LSU: 92,626 (minor decrease)
Tennessee: 89,965 (5 percent decrease)
Florida: 87,597 (2 percent decrease)
Texas A&M: 87,104 (minor decrease)
Auburn: 82,646 (4 percent decrease)
South Carolina: 80,001 (1 percent increase)
Arkansas: 68,046 (2 percent increase)
Missouri: 67,476 (9 percent increase)
Ole Miss: 57,066 (1 percent increase)
Mississippi State: 55,628 (minor decrease)
Kentucky: 49,691 (17 percent decrease)
Vanderbilt: 37,860 (15 percent increase)

GATA= Get After That @ss

February 1st, 2013
8:01 am

AltamahaDawg

February 1st, 2013
8:19 am

There is no restriction (ruin) TO tailgating. There are changes as to where that can occur, and those were forced only because of the worst of the abuses that were destroying property on campus. And wouldn’t have stopped otherwise. Amble opportunity was given to show that it would correct itself and it just got worse.

My crew has lost it’s traditional spots about 3 times now, and all we do is come up with a new plan, and still have a great tailgating experience.better than ever actually. We finally figured out that we control it more, and have a better experience now that we stoped trying to save a few buck. Parking is a drop in the bucket, compared to the total cost of a college football event.

Even IF folks choose to stay home because of changes put into place while Adams was here (ignoring the changes that were put into place long before him, and the ones that the city put in, not him, for now), it’s a very insignificant number(if it ever a real number) to the attendance in Sanford Stadum. UGA graduates between 5000-7500 potential new ticket holder each and every year. The handful of folks who might have been part of the one time defection, solely because of parking and tailgating restriction, and for no other reason, hardly put a dent into the demand for UGA football tickets.

AltamahaDawg

February 1st, 2013
8:29 am

“You will continue to see attendance drop” If they don’t bring back the ability to tailgate unihibited on the Historic Grounds of North Campus. ……….wanna bet?

Any “restrictions” to tailgating affected a very small percentage of patrons, and the ones that matter have long ago adjusted to them, (and still show up). And I’d venture to say nearly all of those who are inconvenienced by any of this would have done the same thing if they were responsible for the campus.

Lonnie

February 1st, 2013
9:18 am

The view is very special @ the stadium! I was in University Union as well and remember the proposal for Bruce. I agree with Adams as well!!!

Pago Pago DAWG

February 1st, 2013
9:46 am

We’re glad we don’t have to “sign up” again to comment on Bills blog.

[...] Michael Adams is right about keeping Sanford Stadium open [...]

[...] Michael Adams is right about keeping Sanford Stadium open [...]

SnackDawg

February 4th, 2013
9:44 pm

If Adams is obsessed with everyone being able to see the bridge and the Tate Center, why doesn’t he and McGarity actually make the bridge special and renovate that hideous exterior of Tate/ The bridge is just an ol’ highway style bridge. Why not brick up the pylons and brick the street or something like that? The bridge is embarassing because we take so much pride in it, yet it looks like crap. And the Tate looks like something from the mid-90s that needs renovation. Especially if a city of people are looking at it several times every fall. The Tate looks awful.