With the 2017 Georgia football season kicking off Saturday evening, Josh Brooks will be wearing two heavy hats.
The executive associate athletic director will concern himself with game day operations at Sanford Stadium while also keeping in mind the $63 million construction project the west end of the stadium is undergoing.
“You essentially live in two different worlds where you’re making sure everything is operational and good to go for Saturday while there’s also a project you’ve got to keep going at the same time,” said Brooks on Wednesday afternoon.
And while Brooks will have a lot on his mind as the clock ticks down to Saturday’s 6:15 p.m. kickoff against Appalachian State, there are only a few major items Bulldog fans will have to remember as they arrive at the game.
First and foremost, the construction project — which will eventually encompass a new dressing room for the team, a new video board, a hospitality lounge for recruits and a 11,500-square-foot plaza next to the Sanford Street bridge, among other improvements – will change the way fans enter the stadium in the west end zone.
“The main thing is, where the Tate (Student Center) side is, we’re encompassing more space so the gate area has been pushed back at Gate 10,” said Brooks. “Before, you had Gate 10, the main gate and Gate 1 all running underneath the bridge. That doesn’t exist anymore. Gate 10 is now from the back corner of Tate running along to the fence at Tanyard Creek.
“Basically we’ve got more area to work with than in the past and it’s kind of pushed back because we had to block off an area of the stadium for construction. Now there’s one large gate, a super gate. Gate 10 is much larger.”
Brooks adds that since the west end zone’s restroom, concession and first-aid facilities have been removed due to the construction, everything in that area will be portable in 2017.
“The concessions will match the Augusta National style of grab-and-go,” he said. “You go through a line, grab your items and then check out. We’ve done that to get people through … as fast as possible.”
The iconic Dawg Walk will also experience a slight change due to construction.
“The Dawg Walk will be a little shorter because the gate pops out, so the players will enter the stadium a little sooner than they would in the past because we’re encompassing more of that plaza as part of being inside the stadium,” said Brooks. “But other than that, if you’re sitting anywhere else in the stadium, you wouldn’t even notice a difference.”
Brooks advises Bulldog fans to arrive a little earlier than normal and adds that if fans don’t absolutely have to enter through Gate 10, they should come in through another gate. Georgia’s Gameday Cental site (georgiadogs.com/gameday/football-vs-appalachian-state/football/1/) has a helpful gate recommendation map to help people select the most convenient entrance.
The only other major change facing fans is the Southeastern Conference’s edict that only clear bags (not larger than 12 inches by 12 inches) are allowed in the stadium. Brooks says the clear-bag policy was utilized at G-Day with few hitches.
“There always a small percentage that needs help, but for the most part it went well,” he said. “Our event management staff did a great job of placing signs around the stadium. There’s not a pathway to the stadium where you won’t be reminded of the policy. We’ve been working hard to push that message out with emails and social media. G-Day was a great time to kick it off and I think the majority (of fans) will be ready.”
There are unintended visual consequences of $63 million worth of stadium construction, but Brooks says when the 2018 season rolls around, the improvements will be more than evident.
“Once 2018 season gets here, we’ll have a bigger plaza, more restrooms and more concession points in the west end zone,” he said. “You’ll be able to enter the stadium from the bridge, which will be kind of neat for the folks who sit in those sections. Next year is when you’ll be able to see and experience more of it in terms of permanent structures in place.”
He also says that consulting the Gameday Central site can be helpful to fans, who can also have their questions answered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We love to respond to people,” said Brooks. “We know and are conscious that everybody has a different experience and we value input from our fans. We appreciate when we get email because it only makes it better.”