Tuesday August 9th, 2022 6:26AM

On a rainy day, Richt calls for indoor practice facility

By The Associated Press
<p>Mark Richt couldn't have picked a better day to make his pitch for an indoor practice field.</p><p>The remnants of Hurricane Frances transformed Georgia's outdoor fields into a soggy mess. To get out of the rain, the third-ranked Bulldogs were forced to make a one-hour-plus bus trip to the Atlanta Falcons' practice facility in Flowery Branch.</p><p>"I'd like to have an indoor facility," Richt said Tuesday. "That's No. 1 on my list right now."</p><p>Not so fast.</p><p>Athletic director Damon Evans said this isn't exactly the best time to be considering an extravagant new facility, when the university is facing some $16 million in state budget cuts and the athletic department already has $92 million in debt.</p><p>"Obviously, it's important to our football coach," Evans said. "He thinks it is something that would be beneficial to him and his program. I'm not going say it wouldn't be beneficial, but we've got to weigh everything."</p><p>The outlook isn't real promising for anymore football perks.</p><p>Evans pointed out that the school already has spent some $55 million in football-related improvements since Richt arrived in 2001, mostly to upgrade and expand Sanford Stadium. The locker rooms and practice fields have been renovated, too.</p><p>"We've already made some pretty strong commitments to football," Evans said.</p><p>For the time being, Evans seems more focused on Stegeman Coliseum, the 40-year-old home of the school's basketball and gymnastics programs. He has talked about the need for widening the concourses, adding luxury suites and building a new practice facility.</p><p>Richt acknowledged that the school has addressed many of his concerns.</p><p>"We had a lot of things we needed to accomplish with the locker rooms, the meeting rooms, the practice fields, where the players eat, where they sleep, where they study," he said. "That all needed to be squared away before we moved toward an indoor facility."</p><p>Now, he's ready to start pushing for that. Georgia is one of only three schools in the 12-team Southeastern Conference that doesn't have an indoor practice field, along with Florida and Vanderbilt.</p><p>This was the second time in the past month that Georgia has bused to Flowery Branch to practice at the Falcons' indoor facility, and there's a chance the Bulldogs will return there on Wednesday if the rain doesn't subside.</p><p>Other times, Georgia has practiced on the wooden floor of the Ramsey Center, the student athletic complex. Richt said that wasn't a feasible option heading into Saturday's SEC opener against South Carolina.</p><p>"We're going to be in full pads, and we need better fundamentals," he said. "If we spend today and tomorrow at the Ramsey Center, we're not going to get any better."</p><p>A coach who loves to immerse himself in details, Richt has clearly given plenty of thought to how a new indoor facility might look. The first floor would have a strength and weightlifting room, the second floor would be reserved for offices, and the third floor would hold a large dining room _ with a glass window that overlooked the practice field.</p><p>Richt clearly wants to sell the project as being more than a place for the football team to practice a few times a year. He said there would be a 300-meter track around the field for indoor meets. The dining room would be used by regular students. Tailgating and other game-day activities would be held there, too.</p><p>"I think there could be a lot of great uses for a facility like that," he said.</p><p>Georgia considered building an indoor hall during the tenure of former coach Jim Donnan. Plans were drawn up, with the estimated cost put at $25-30 million. But the school pushed ahead with other projects, and Donnan was fired in 2000 without the project ever coming close to reality.</p><p>Richt's proposed facility is more elaborate, which would drive the cost much higher _ perhaps as much as $50 million. Unless a wealthy benefactor wanted to earmark money for such a project, it's unlikely to get built anytime soon.</p><p>"It's important as an athletic association to be somewhat sensitive to what is going on with the total university in regard to budget cuts," Evans said. "We're got to look at the big picture."</p><p>The players got to look at lot of passing scenery on Tuesday. They would certainly prefer to have an indoor facility on campus rather than take a bus to Flowery Branch.</p><p>"A lot of schools have them," quarterback D.J. Shockley said. "We would like to have one, too."</p>
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