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March 23, 2009

Is Foley Field Worthy of the Dawgs?

The Diamond Dawgs swept last weekend's baseball series with Mississippi State in front of record crowds at Foley Field.   Originally constructed in 1966 and refurbished in 1990, Foley Field currently seats an official capacity of 3,291, the second smallest in the SEC.  Only UK is smaller.  Despite it's small size, the facility held crowds of 3,876 Friday night, 4,461 Saturday (the largest crowd in Foley Field history), and 3,689 Sunday.  Those crowds broke the all-time attendance record for a weekend series.  Clearly, demand for UGA baseball is at an all-time high.  And it should be.  Very few programs have performed like UGA in the last ten years.  So, isn't it time to expand Foley Field?
We've mentioned, albeit briefly, that a new Foley Field is included in the athletic facility master plan. The master plan, though, is a long range wish list.  It's projects are aspirational over the next ten to fifteen years.  The plan advances two alternative designs for a new Foley Field.  The first would involve a completely new structure, rotating the field so that home plate would be moved to the present right field.  This plan would present two significant changes: 1) present a more aesthetic view beyond the outfield wall, with the Rankin Smith Center and Stegeman as the view beyond the batter's eye, and 2) eliminate the view from Kudzu Hill, the most unique aspect of Foley Field.  I'd rather keep the kudzu.  
A second alternative is presented in the master plan that maintains the existing structure and simply adds seating all the way down the outfield lines.   This alternative was presented without comment, so I'm at a loss on details, but it has to be less expensive.  Because it's less expensive and would preserve the charm and beauty of the existing setting, I like the second alternative.  Depending on how the additional seating is planned, we could also add additional baseball specific facilities under the new stands, like offices, weights, or batting cages.
This season, three SEC teams have new or refurbished baseball facilities. Six other schools have new digs, too.  (Baseball America put together this slick review of all the new stadiums.)  
  • Ole Miss refurbished Oxford-University Stadium for an estimated $18 million.  Their expansion looks a lot like what the second alternative of the master plan would look like.  The Rebs added a bunch of seats down the lines and redid their entire stadium facade.  
  • LSU built a new Alex Box Stadium, expanding from 7,760 seats to 9,200.  The Tigers have led the nation in attendance for several years now, so an expanded stadium makes perfect sense for them.  They added 288 luxury boxes, too. 
  • And, South Carolina built an absolute palace for an estimated $38 million.  It is a seemingly self-contained baseball shrine, with built-in batting tunnels, weight room, media rooms, and athletic training facilities.  It also has luxury boxes.  LSU and Carolina's new digs make Foley Field look even more like a little league park when compared with the rest of the conference.
Look, I'm not demanding that Damon unveil the best facility in the country, although that would be great.  What we need is increased capacity so we don't leave ticket revenue on the table.  UGA already has a renovation plan that preserves Kudzu Hill and shouldn't cost as much as building a plush, new AAA-equivalent ballpark like LSU and Carolina.  Let's advance the plan.  
Coach Perno continues to coach and recruit at a high level.  The program looks like its on a solid foundation for years to come.  Let's build a facility worthy of such a program.



Anonymous said...

Great post. The answer will probably be to remove the road behind the third base stands. The road would stop at the outfield fence more or less.

That would allow for the expansion of the 3rd base stands for several sections and expansion of the existing structure upwards behind home plate and 3rd base.

You could also put the bull pen somewhere else if that road were gone.

That's probably the cheapest option.

I get the impression that renovating Foley is the lowest priority item in the Master Plan.

Anonymous said...

I agree. What I love about most of UGA's facilities is how well they fit into the campus, the town, and the environment. I love the crowds and banners at the houses behind right field. I love how Sanford nestles into the valley at the heart of campus. I would love to see the Stegeman plans come to fruition because that facade just looks plain jazzy! I think a ton of seat capacity could be added by adding bleachers seats right below Kudzu Hill without obscuring the view too much for those sitting on the hill higher up. I also think that the grandstand could be pretty easily expanded both vertically and horizontally if you want to add capacity.

Also, would LOVE to see those plans for Reed Alley come to fruition!!!! The concessions at Sanford could stand a big boost and that area is a really nice, shady spot. My brother and I with his two young' uns had to hang out there one game, and all it needed to be just about perfect was a big screen showing the game while the lil ones were able to get rid of some excess energy running around on the grass.

Anonymous said...

Excellent call on the grandstands in right below the House. I was thinking that today.

I think you could add 1-2k almost immediately by:

- Putting grandstands where Kudzu Hill is without obstructing the view from the houses. We need those fans during the Playoffs!

- Taking down the cedar trees in Left Field and putting up a grand stand over the existing first few rows of parking spaces.

Those would be *cheap* to install compared to adding seats behind third base or re-routing the road.

Anonymous said...

Whatever they do with Foley, I hope they leave the field where it is and stay away from doing anything to center-left field.

The trees and kudzu hill give Foley a very unique and intimate atmosphere.

Why would anyone want to have Stegeman as a backdrop for anything?

Anonymous said...

We have to keep Kudzu Hill. It doesn't get much better than those guys playing Tetris and video game music when Tech gets up to bat during the Regionals.

Anonymous said...

I would like for us to tear down Foley and rebuild it at the current site. Foley, with all due respect, is a dump and simply adding seats is like, well, you know...putting lipstick on a pig. Especially compared to venues at SCU and other SEC schools, Foley could use a major overhaul. I'd particularly love to see open concourses like at SCU's new stadium.

I mean, come on...if SCU can do it (a program that doesn't have anywhere near they money we have), surely we can as well. UGA baseball has also been more successful overall as well, with a larger fan base in general. If UGA built something like SCU has, with 5-7k seats, it would be really something else to attend games there on nice weekends (like this past one).

Lastly, given the increasing popularity of college baseball, I think replacing Foley should be near the top of any given list..not the bottom.

The Watch Dawg said...

Any upgrade has to involve keeping Kudzu hill along with the atmosphere provided by the folks out by the brick house. I love Foley because of that unique feeling. If they turned it around it would be just another ballpark.

Seems like adding seats to the current setup would be a cheap and necessary upgrade.

Anonymous said...

If the layout of Foley is indeed flipped I would expect the folks in the neighborhood just beyond the current RF to raise a big stink about noise issues, as the main bleachers and PA system would be much closer to their homes...

Anonymous said...

Quinton you forgot to add Tennessee to the list, they just built a brand new stadium too. If we can sellout foley the rest of the year, even the midweek games against teams like wright state then i think the AA will start talking about what to do with foley after the season and maybe something will be done soonner rather than later as foley isnt one of the main projects right now.

Quinton McDawg said...

UT's website says their last renovation was in 2006, adding left field bleachers. Even with that expansion, they aren't much over our capacity.

Unknown said...

I'm all for the adding bleachers without changing the orientation of the field. I know Jeff Dantzler has his critics on the blogs and message boards but I always love it when he refers to Foley as the "Wrigley field of the SEC" in reference to the neigborhoods behind the outfield. Now lets get another CWS championship so that we hold no other similarities to the Cubs ;)

Anonymous said...

You don't even have to add bleachers in right field. All it would entail is hiring a company to put in some concrete steps out in right where the curent red clay is. This would allow more fans to see the game and a flat area to place chairs or grils or whatever have you.

I think this would only cost a couple thousand and could be done in a week and a half. Then let the other renovations come.

Anonymous said...

Why not move the scoreboard to left? I went to the game Friday night sat in right field and could hardly see.

Anonymous said...

I oppose and would protest against any plans to get rid of Kudzu Hill.

You know Adams would be all up in any plans to get rid of it or move the stadium away from the houses. We can't have college students drinking beer on private property and cheering on one of our sports teams.

Anonymous said...

My ideal situation is to expand down the lines; if we only wanted to do one expansion we would go down the left field line, but doing both would be best. Have about 8-10 rows of seats lined up with the current ones all the way down to the walls, then a flat pavilion area behind each. This would serve as an area for much better concessions, kids that can't sit still could run around, and smokers could go stand around without bothering the people sitting by them. You would expand the seating capacity to around 5k and have room for a LOT more standing room. If they really wanted to make a project of it, they can incorporate Kudzu Hill into the stadium and clean the bottom of it up, you could make it look very nice without losing the original look too much.

That said, the quick fix is to put some temporary bleachers in right. That won't take much money at all.

I'm dead set against rotating the field. Remember, we've never lost a postseason tournament at Foley. The houses behind Kudzu Hill have a lot to do with the mystique of that record. The longer we keep our streak going, the more that mystique grows.

dawgnotdog said...

We lost the 1987 SEC Tourney at Foley.

Hobnail_Boot said...

Much like Stegeman, the biggest need at Foley is to overhaul the concourses/concessions.

I agree with the poster above who said 'lets sell out the rest of the year, and the AA will notice'.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, the first thing they need to do is pour concrete instead of gravel, like the above poster said. I think that the idea of kids throwing baseball and people grilling in right field is just an awesome idea, and that would just be the cherry on top of the houses. I think you keep the hill and it's kudzu, but clean up the red clay area, make it sort of like a city park kind of setting even. After that I think that you most definitely expand down rutherford street (Also, I'm all aboard the idea to make rutherford a pedestrian only thoroughfare. Only issue is Carlton St would be a bit crowded on gamedays due to its being the only entrance left

Anonymous said...

Foley field is sufficient for a college baseball team.
Don't try to build every sport up to the excessive level.
Remember, it's a college.
Football is excessive but I want to compete so I guess that's the way it is. Every sport can't be kingsize.
Georgia is a football school.
Basketball games in the early 60's were rained out due to a leaky roof in Woodruff Hall.
Foley Field is good.

Anonymous said...

Anon, 6:13:

You're stupid. The baseball team needs facilities to compete just as much, if not moreso, than the football team. With two of the conference powers getting new facilities, THE conference powerhouse of the last decade should get in on the fun too. Especially when they're turning fans away for a game against an unranked team.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:13,

We can afford to be good at everything. We have that kind of cash right now.

We can't afford to upgrade all facilities at once, but otherwise. Yeah.

Anonymous said...

The current building is a concrete dinosaur. Instead of doing this half ashed and keeping the current building they need to tear it down and start over with the amenities it needs. I will agree somewhat with Kudzu Hill because I think it makes the stadium appear quaint. I would like the university to own the properties in right field - which they would have to do if they were to flip the stadium around (noise and access issues I assume). Just one more thing on Kudzu Hill - other than aesthetics I dont see that its so great to glorify a few folks who dont contribute any $$$ to the program but want to see the games for free....I am sure there are some people that think we should have left Sanford open so that we could see trains pass by during the game and freeloaders could watch the game as well.

Anonymous said...

Some ideas:

1. Expand down both base lines.

2. Add a few rows of seats from the existing structure down to field level to get more fans closer to the action. Move home plate out and push back the right field fence to accommodate it.

3. Create a small fan concession plaza area between the new extended right field stands and Pinecrest. Get a big-ass smoker and feature Poss' barbeque, stew, and "Georgia Dawgs" with slaw.

Call it Kudzu Corner if you have to.

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