Daily Archives: March 7, 2017

“It’s almost a rat race as far as facilities go.”

Georgia fans, you want to know why we can’t have nice things?  Because, even after spending $100+ million to make Kirby Smart happier — not happy, mind you, just happier — there’s plenty more where that came from.

Prior to all this, Georgia’s biggest football-related facilities project was completed in Feb. 2011, a $33 million addition to the Butts-Mehre facility. That included an all-purpose room (since gutted to make room for the indoor facility), the coaches’ offices, and a 13,000-square foot weight room.

So, as athletics director Greg McGarity points out, that’s well over $120 million spent on mainly-football facilities this decade. McGarity said that should be a “show of strength.”

… Mississippi State’s weight room, which opened in 2013, is 16,000 square feet. South Carolina’s current weight room is 14,250 square feet, and as part of a bigger project (more on that later) will have a new weight room that is 22,000 square feet. Kentucky’s weight room is 14,000.

Among the only SEC programs with a smaller weight room than Georgia is Ole Miss, which reported its to be 10,000.

Outside the conference, Clemson’s new facility will include a 23,000-square foot workout area, including a second level and a nutrition bar…

… There’s another thing that strikes you when you’re at Alabama: The easy access that players have to their facility and academic center. It’s all a short walk — or drive.

The main dorm, where underclassmen usually reside, is a block-and-a-half away. So players can easily walk over and back. For those that want to drive — such as upperclassmen who live off campus — there is a spacious parking lot adjacent to the facility.

Georgia players, on the other hand, usually have to park their cars at a parking deck, a couple minutes’ walk from their facility. Media members and others who work at Butts-Mehre use the same parking deck. There is very limited parking right at Butts-Mehre, which is land-locked, with baseball’s Foley Field and the outdoor track on each side, and Stegeman Coliseum behind it, and an elementary school in front.

… But when it comes to football, Alabama has often set the standard, and many others are following, complete with snazzy extras.

Clemson has opened a $55 million facility that includes a mini golf course, a bowling alley and laser tag.

Oregon spent $138 million on its complex, with the help of Nike, and the kind of perks you’d expect.

It’s not just at the power-conference level: UCF is planning a $25 million facility that will include a lazy river. Athletics director Danny White said they’re going to fundraise for it too.

… Last September, Florida announced a $100 million facilities upgrade, creating the first standalone football facility in the program’s history. The Gators, who also lacked an indoor facility until a few years ago, finally got in the arms race and are pushing hard.

Florida’s plan is for the facility to be three stories and basically have everything: Weight room, locker rooms, coaches’ offices, team and position meeting rooms, a player’s lounge, and plenty more.

South Carolina began construction on a $50 million football operations facility in January. Head coach Will Muschamp said last year that before the project South Carolina was in the “bottom half of the SEC” in facilities. This will change that. It will include a new weight room, coaches’ offices, a recruiting center, locker room, meeting rooms, dining room and more.

This shit literally never ends.

“I have news for you: In a few years there’ll be something else. Either with respect to football or respect to many of our other outstanding programs,” Morehead said. “So the sooner and faster we can raise these funds, it puts us in a position to know that we are again in a situation where we can do something else moving forward. But I am absolutely committed to supporting our athletic director and our football coach as they go out and make the case for this project.”

Combining endless demands to keep up with the football Joneses of the South along with Georgia’s seeming inability to handle more than one major capital project at a time, what Emerson euphemizes as “a focused approach”, means there’s never going to be a time when McGarity can settle back and calmly plan and bid out a major project to update Sanford Stadium’s shortcomings.  Er… fans’ shortcomings, that is.

It all gives a whole new meaning to winning is everything, doesn’t it?

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“That offensive line was a disaster.”

At least one anonymous NFL executive doesn’t think Nick Chubb’s 2016 season was disappointing because of Nick Chubb.

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A Butts-Mehre-friendly suggestion box

Ever since I read this post of MaconDawg’s from last Friday, I’ve been pondering doing something similar here — namely, putting together a list of suggested changes for the fan’s game day experience that wouldn’t cost the athletic department an arm and a leg (at least in the context of $60+ million capital projects) and asking you to provide suggestions, too.

At the least, it would be therapeutic for us.  And, who knows, maybe somebody who matters might pay attention to a non-threatening cry for help.  So, what the hell, here goes nothing.

Let’s start with MaconDawg’s list.

Better televisions in the concessions areas and concourses. 100 mounted 46 inch flat screen televisions at $800 a pop comes to $80,000 plus installation. That would be a small investment to improve the game day atmosphere. Also, while some committed fans don’t want to miss a snap, I expect some would get up to handle their concessions and elimination needs during the action if they knew they’d be able to watch the game in line without needing binoculars. This might mean the rest of us could get a hot dog at halftime without missing the first half of the third quarter. Speaking of which . . .

Take a hit on concessions. The concession costs at Georgia home games aren’t outrageous by any stretch, especially compared to pro venues. But for those bringing a family to the game it wouldn’t kill anyone to cut the cost of a souvenir Coke or a hot dog by a buck. Cut Aramark a check for their loss, but work out a promotion with the vendor, one of the oldest and most closely associated sponsors of UGA athletics. Assuming the 94,000 folks assembled six Saturdays a year ordered one discounted item apiece at every game that comes to $564,000.

Throw some cash at the band. The Redcoats are a critical part of the game day experience before fans even enter the stadium. As the recent effort to build a new tower on the band practice field shows, $250,000 per year could do wonders for the finest band in the whole damn land.

Welcome pavilions. I’ve been to a couple of other schools where there are structures that serve as a sort of first aid tent/welcome center/meeting spot for home and visiting fans. Just an open air, 12×12 tent would do the job. Staff those suckers with students six times per year to help visitors find their cars, get a restaurant recommendation, or to cool off and wait for friends to catch up to them on the march back to their cars. My back of the napkin math says that 7 such stations could be set up and staffed for under $80,000 per year. For weary visiting fans it would go a long way to boost the image of Bulldog hospitality.

Nothing wrong with any of that, especially the welcome pavilions.  But I think there’s more to be done with concessions than a price cut.  Even McGarity recognizes that, based on something he told Bill King.

McGarity also said the athletic association is trying to streamline the frustratingly slow concessions process: They’ve eliminated time-consuming items like chicken tenders and french fries and rounded the prices up or down to simplify making change. He also said they hope to improve the training of the volunteer concessions workers and get more vendors out into the stands.

What blows my mind about concessions is that most public stadium facilities across the country these days recognize what a money maker concessions can be, if you make an effort to cater to the fans attending games.  Go to most stadiums, and you’ll find offerings you never thought possible just a decade ago.  Sure, there’s a price to be paid for it, but fans have shown they will dish out a premium for a premium product.

Instead, the solution we’ve gotten at Sanford is to dumb things down because the delivery system is so inept.  When you’re basing your concessions service priorities on the servers instead of the served, you’re doing it wrong.  Not only that, it’s counterproductive because you’re denying yourself the extra revenue that would come from pricier options delivered more efficiently.  How stupid is that?

As far as the price cutting goes, I think a commenter here once suggested that the best setting for offering that would be at cupcake games.  That’s a great incentive to attend and if you figure that’s a game that likely draws more families with kids, it’s a nice gesture for folks to save a couple of bucks.  Whatever short-term dollars that might cost could be more than made up for with the increase gained from stepping up your concessions game for the remaining games.  (Or by playing fewer games against cupcakes… I know.)

Bathrooms?  I’m sorry, but it can’t be that hard to find ways to improve the situation there with a little effort.  Start with more attendants who can work to keep the facilities cleaner during games and perhaps help direct the traffic flow.

The game day experience doesn’t begin and end in the stadium, of course.  There’s plenty that could be done outside of Sanford to make for a happier fan experience.  Beginning and ending starts with traffic and parking.  For whatever reason, the ACCPD has struggled with this.  Certainly it’s a bear to have to deal with emptying out the streets carrying an additional 92000+ people after a game, but it’s long past time for the school and the city to sit down together and map out a comprehensive traffic plan that does a more efficient job.  If that means, again, UGA needs to add some additional personnel to the mix to help disburse the traffic, then make that happen, please.

Parking has been an issue because of stadium expansion and general building expansion on campus.  The poorly thought out result has been distressing for many fans.  I’m not sure how fixable the problems are — what’s gone ain’t coming back — but this appears to be another area that could use a comprehensive approach to getting fans in and out of games more efficiently.

Tailgating.  Ugh.  The basic approach should be to blow up everything that Michael Adams did in this department and start all over again, with input from fans about start times, locales, rules about what is allowed and not allowed, etc.  Most importantly, make sure there are enough trash cans, porta-potties and staff to make tailgating an enjoyable experience all over campus.

Georgia’s approach to tailgating really blows my mind.  It’s the most social aspect of the fan experience, the primary driver behind why fans love spending Saturdays in Athens, and yet the school’s quasi-hostile attitude about it seems destined to drive a permanent wedge between the fans and the game day experience.  What happened on North Campus a few years ago that led to the biggest impetus to the administration’s change of heart was unfortunate, but something that could have been avoided with a sensible degree of attention paid to providing sufficient resources.

None of these items, in the context of Georgia’s athletic budget, are financial back-breakers.  That’s not the real barrier to making things better for those who attend, though.  Things have to start with attitude.  I wrote something a few years ago comparing my experiences at the Masters and in Athens.  What struck me then hasn’t changed in the years since.  It all begins with the people providing the experience caring about making it fan-friendly, and that’s something that’s been sadly lacking at Georgia.

Bottom line, flood the place with courteous, well-trained folks who can help fans.  As I wrote before,

There’s a pretty basic trick behind the magic.  The Masters simply floods the place with personnel.  It hires an army of local kids, trains them well and deploys them everywhere from the parking lots to the gift store to the restrooms.  The grounds are constantly maintained (everywhere I turned you could see people discreetly removing garbage).  Sure, that costs money, but it’s spent in a way that you can’t help but appreciate and admire.  It also has the benefit of making sales more efficient, which means opportunity to make more sales.

It’s not rocket science, people.  It makes us feel appreciated and I’m pretty confident in saying an appreciative fan is a fan who’s more willing to spend money.  An appreciative fan is also a fan who will come back.

If there isn’t somebody at Butts-Mehre who has a feel for how to accomplish that — and I’d say at this point it’s pretty apparent there isn’t — go find someone who’s done that at another public venue in a cost-effective way and bring him or her in to work some magic.  Trust me, it would pay off.  Bigly.

Anyway, those are a few of my thoughts on the matter.  I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for making game days more enjoyable affairs.  So, lay ’em out in the comments and hope somebody’s paying attention.  (Those of you who don’t go to games, or are in the recruiting über alles camp and don’t care about anything else, I can do without any condescending observations about how the rest of us can just stay home if we’re miserable, thanks.)

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The art of the deal

This isn’t a basketball blog and I’m not particularly concerned about Mark Fox’ fate in one form or fashion, but as a window into Greg McGarity’s soul, this Pat Forde story about where Georgia is at on who will be coaching the men’s basketball team after this season is revealing.

… However, a well-connected industry insider said flatly Monday night that the Ohio State job “is not going to open.”

There are no such assurances at Georgia, where Fox is trying to eke out a third NCAA tournament bid in eight seasons on the job. The Bulldogs are 18-13, 9-9 in the Southeastern Conference, and considered on the wrong side of the bubble heading into the SEC tournament.

Georgia has begun doing due diligence on potential replacements for Fox, with an emphasis on mid-major candidates. Among those considered likely to be on the school’s radar in event of an opening are North Carolina-Wilmington’s Kevin Keatts, East Tennessee State’s Steve Forbes, Chattanooga’s Matt McCall and Winthrop’s Pat Kelsey.

Keatts just secured a second straight NCAA bid Monday night, and Forbes’ team locked up a bid Monday as well. Kelsey’s team won the Big South tourney over the weekend. McCall took Chattanooga to the NCAA tournament last year, and as a former assistant to Billy Donovan could have an endorsement from someone who worked with Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity when McGarity was an assistant AD at Florida.

I don’t want to get all dead man walking here, but you don’t allow this kind of stuff to leak out to a national media outlet unless you want to.  It makes for a convenient way of letting a coach know he’s on extremely shaky ground without having to have one of those unpleasant face to face meetings about his status.

There are certain echoes between the fates of Fox and Richt, except that the latter, for whatever his shortcomings, enjoyed both a stronger national reputation and serious support among a large part of the fan base, which meant that McGarity had to play his cards closer to his vest to avoid any serious pushback in pulling the plug.  That’s not a concern for men’s basketball, of course.

Whether this is nothing more than a smoke screen to make the fan base think Georgia is seriously weighing the progress of the program under Fox, an attempt to flush out interest in the position in the coaching ranks or a legitimate first step in making a change, what’s interesting is two-fold:  one, that the news was allowed to leak out publicly and two, that there isn’t a Smart-like candidate who’s forcing the hiring process along.

In short, this is how Butts-Mehre rolls in normal circumstances.  Who knows?  Maybe this will be a time they get lucky.

*************************************************************************

UPDATE:  And here we go.

Oh, boy.  Greg McGarity in PR damage control mode.  This should go well.

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