Sanford Stadium is the on-campus playing venue for football at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, United States. The 92,746-seat stadium is the tenth-largest stadium in the NCAA. Architecturally, the stadium is known for its numerous expansions over the years that have been carefully planned to fit with the existing "look" of the stadium. Games played there are said to be played "Between the Hedges" due to the field being surrounded by privet hedges, which have been a part of the design of the stadium since it opened in 1929. The current hedges were planted in 1996 after the originals were taken out to accommodate soccer for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
|"Between the Hedges"|
|Location||Sanford Dr and Field St, Athens, GA 30602|
|Owner||University of Georgia|
|Operator||University of Georgia|
|Surface||Tifton 419 Bermuda Grass|
|Opened||October 12, 1929|
|Expanded||1949, 1964, 1967, 1981, 1991, 1994, 2000, 2003|
($5.02 million in 2016 dollars)
|Architect||TC Atwood, Heely International (1967 expansion)|
|Georgia Bulldogs (NCAA) (1929–present)
1996 Summer Olympics – Football
The stadium is named for Dr. Steadman Vincent Sanford, an early major force behind UGA athletics. Sanford arrived at the University of Georgia as an English instructor in 1903. He later became the faculty representative to the athletics committee and would eventually become president of the University and Chancellor of the entire University System of Georgia. In 1911, he moved the university's football venue from its first location, Herty Field, to a location at the center of campus which was named Sanford Field in his honor.
In those early years of football, Georgia played a series of controversial games against in-state rival Georgia Tech. Sanford Field was too small to accommodate the large crowds, forcing Georgia to travel to Tech's Grant Field in Atlanta every year. Sanford wanted Georgia to have a venue that would equal Tech's, and the "final straw" came in 1927 when UGA's undefeated (9–0) team traveled to Tech and lost 12–0. It was alleged that Tech watered the field all night to slow UGA's running backs. Afterwards, Sanford vowed to "build a stadium bigger than Tech," and play the game at Athens every other year.
To fund his vision, Sanford had an idea that members of the athletic association would sign notes guaranteeing a bank loan to fund the stadium construction. Those guarantors would be granted lifetime seats. The response was overwhelming, and in 1928 a loan of $150,000 supported by fans and alumni allowed construction to begin on a stadium whose total cost was $360,000.
Near the existing Sanford Field was a low area between the Old Campus (to the north) and the Ag Campus (to the south) with a small creek (Tanyard Creek) running through it, creating a clearly preferable choice for the location of the new stadium. This natural valley containing Tanyard Creek would result in reduced costs, as stands could be built on the rising sides of the hill, while the creek could be enclosed in a concrete culvert, on top of which the field would be constructed. The architect for the stadium was TC Atwood of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where North Carolina's Kenan Memorial Stadium had just been completed with a similar design. The 30,000-seat stadium was built in large part with convict labor, as were many public works projects of that era.
While the location was, then as now, preferable for construction, the result is an uphill walk in any direction leaving the stadium.
The stadium was completed on time, and UGA convinced perennial powerhouse Yale, which has historically maintained close ties with UGA, to be their first opponent in the new stadium. (This also was Yale's first ever football game played in the South.) On October 12, 1929, a capacity crowd of over 30,000 paid $3 per ticket to watch the Bulldogs, under coach Harry Mehre, beat Yale 15–0 in Sanford Stadium's dedication game. The crowd was at the time the largest to witness a college football game in the South, and governors from all nine southern states also were in attendance. Yale donated its half of the game receipts to UGA to help pay off the construction loans, which would subsequently be completely repaid in just five years. Dr. Sanford also was at this game, and attended many Georgia games at the stadium named in his honor until his death on September 15, 1945.
Sanford Stadium's hedges have encircled the field since the stadium's first game against Yale in 1929. The idea to put hedges around the field came from the Business Manager of the UGA Athletic Department, Charlie Martin. Martin claimed to have received inspiration for the idea during a visit to the Rose Bowl, where he saw the hedge of roses in that stadium. Roses were not a suitable choice for the climate in Athens, so privet hedges were used instead. Six other SEC stadiums have copied UGA and now have hedges, making this feature no longer unique to UGA, but Georgia has the only one that completely surrounds the playing field.
There is a disagreement as to the exact type of hedge planted at Sanford Stadium. The UGA Media Guide claims that the hedge is an "English privet hedge". A county extension agent in Athens, however, claims online that the hedge is composed of Chinese privet, Ligustrum sinense.
In addition to being a cosmetic touch, the hedges have proven to be an effective (though perhaps unintended) measure of crowd control. While not apparent in photos, the hedges are growing around a chain link fence which stops people who try to push through to the field. Even though a major traffic path to exit the stadium from both stands runs directly alongside the hedges, fans have only stormed the field and torn down the goalposts once in the entire history of Sanford Stadium. This occurred after the Georgia vs. Tennessee game on Oct. 7, 2000.
The original stadium consisted of the lower half of the current facility's grandstand seats. In 1940, field-level lights were added, and Georgia played its first night game against Kentucky to a 7–7 tie. The stadium's first major expansion took place in 1949, with the addition of 6,000 seats on the south side, bringing total capacity to 36,000.
During the 1960s, many universities in the South were significantly expanding their stadiums, and Georgia was no different. Soon after the arrival of head coach Vince Dooley in 1964, UGA began updating Sanford Stadium, removing the field-level lighting (which obstructed views from the stands) and adding 7,621 temporary end-zone seats, which brought total capacity to 43,621. Architects Heery and Heery of Atlanta were then hired to plan a major expansion. This expansion planning was very tricky, since by that time the stadium was closely enclosed on both north and south sides by academic buildings. The plans went forward, however, and an "upper deck" of seats was added to each side of the stadium in 1967 without the need to demolish or alter any of the surrounding buildings. In addition to the new upper decks, this first major addition included a new pressbox and club seating. In total, 19,640 seats were added to the stadium (bringing total capacity to 59,000), at a cost of $3 million. The new addition was christened with a victory over Mississippi State in 1967.
In 1981, the east endzone stands were enclosed for a cost of $11.5 million, creating a "horseshoe-shaped" stadium and eliminating the free view enjoyed by the "Track People". This addition added 19,000 seats, bringing total stadium capacity to 82,122. The first game in the newly expanded stadium was on September 5, 1981, against Tennessee, with Georgia delivering a 44–0 drubbing.
Lights were re-installed in the stadium in 1981. This time, the lights were not located at field level, but attached to the top of the upper level, thus not obscuring fans' views of the field. The first game under the "new lights" was a 13–7 victory against Clemson on September 6, 1982.
In 1991, a portion of the west endzone stands was enclosed, creating a "partial bowl" around the lower level of Sanford Stadium. The west stands could not be completely enclosed due to the proximity of Gillis Bridge (usually called "Sanford Bridge"), a major campus transportation artery, to the stadium. This expansion cost $3.7 million and added 4,205 new seats, bringing total capacity to 85,434.
30 luxury suites were added above the south stands in 1994, and were expanded to 50 suites in 2000. These expansions cost a total of $18 million, and raised total capacity to 86,520.
In 2003, another upper deck was added to the north side of the stadium. This added 5,500 new seats to the stadium at a cost of $25 million, bringing total stadium capacity to 92,058. Currently, most of these "upper-upper deck" seats are reserved for the fans of the visiting team.
In 2005, installation of a new video display on the west end zone was completed. Ribbon boards were also added along the sides of the stadium. These additions, constructed and maintained by Daktronics, established Sanford Stadium as one of the most visually media intensive venues in the SEC.
The stadium reached its current capacity of 92,746 in 2004, when 27 SkySuites were added to the north side of the stadium at a cost of $8 million.
As of September 2008,[needs update] Sanford Stadium could grow by more than 9,000 seats if a plan from university architects is approved. The seating expansion would wrap around the east side of the stadium and would bring the stadium's capacity to 101,766. University architect Danny Sniff said he considered filling in the endzone by the Sanford Drive bridge, but decided it was important to preserve the view of the Miller Learning Center and Tate Student Center. One alternative considered is to have a raised seating area which connects the upper deck area with the Sky Box section, maintaining the view from the bridge. There are other proposed additions which include increasing the number of concession stands and restrooms, as well as installing a Jumbotron outside the east end of the stadium to provide for the viewing of the game from outside the stadium.
The video board installed from 2005 underwent a $1.4 million overhaul before the 2011 season. The screen's size expanded from 25×46 feet to the full size of the scoreboard which is 52×76 feet. The new video board has full high definition (HD) capability.
On February 14, 2017, the UGA Athletic Board approved a $63 million expansion to renovate the west side of the stadium. The approved design will relocate the locker room, from the east side to the west side, as well as the addition of a new plaza and recruiting pavilion, which will add 500 seats to the stadium's capacity. Construction is set to begin during the 2017 season, take approximately 17 months, with an anticipated end date prior to the start of the 2018 season.
Notable Sanford Stadium gamesEdit
- October 12, 1929: In the first game played at Sanford Stadium, Georgia upset heavily favored Yale 15–0.
- November 29, 2014: In the first overtime game played in Sanford Stadium, Georgia Tech defeated Georgia 30-24. In a wild finish, Georgia took the lead, 24-21 with 18 seconds left to play. Georgia elected to squib the kickoff, and Tech returned it to the GT 43 yard line. With only 13 seconds remaining, Tech QB Justin Thomas then scrambled 21 yards to the Georgia 36 yard line and got out of bounds with 4 seconds remaining. Harrison Butker then kicked a 53-yard field goal to send the game to overtime for the first time in Sanford Stadium history. Tech then scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run by Zach Laskey to make the score 30-24. The extra point was blocked. On Georgia's possession, the Bulldogs move the ball 16 yards on 4 plays before Georgia QB Hutson Mason's pass to Malcom Mitchell was intercepted by D.J. White, ending the game in Tech's favor, 30-24.
1996 Summer OlympicsEdit
The stadium played host to the Olympic medal competition of men's and women's Olympic football (soccer) at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Because the required dimensions of a soccer field are wider than those of an American football field, the hedges surrounding the field needed to be removed. This proved to be a controversial measure, as it had not been general public knowledge that the hedges would have to be removed to accommodate the Olympic football competition. In preparation for this necessity, cuttings were taken from the original hedges, three years prior to the Olympics, and cultivated at a secret, off-campus site. It was later discovered that this 'secret site' was 70 miles away at R.A. Dudley Nurseries in Thomson, Georgia. During the Olympics, Nigeria and the United States won the men's and women's football gold medals, respectively, at the hedge-less stadium. Once the Olympics were over, the newly grown hedges were transplanted from Dudley Nursery to the stadium. Sanford Stadium told the United States Soccer Federation it would not be interested in holding a possible World Cup match if the US gets the nod.
- Georgia's deceased Uga mascots are entombed in a mausoleum in the southwest corner of the stadium.
- Sanford Stadium is one of the few college stadiums, and one of only two in the Southeastern Conference, in which the football field is oriented to face east–west as opposed to north–south (the other is Commonwealth Stadium; both stadiums are oriented in a general northwest–southeast direction). Many of UGA's opponents have found it difficult for players to see as the west end zone is still open and the sun shines in the faces of the players, although both teams face the sun during the game.
- Until the end of the era of rail travel, executives of the Central of Georgia Railway Co. would park the company president's luxury office rail car on the tracks overlooking the stadium's open west end zone for an excellent view of the spectacle. With food served on china by white-coated porters to the Central of Georgia executives and their guests, the rail car "Atlanta" could be considered Sanford Stadium's original luxury skybox.
- In the 1970s, a multitude of fans began watching Georgia games from the railroad tracks that overlooked the stadium's open east end zone. These "Track People", as they came to be known, were able to watch the game for free, and became a tradition. The 1981 expansion of the stadium, however, enclosed the east end zone stands, eliminating the view of the field from the railroad tracks and effectively ending the "Track People" tradition.
- Georgia's fans have only rushed the field and torn down the goal posts once in the stadium's history. This happened on October 7, 2000, after the Bulldogs beat rival Tennessee for the first time since 1988. This statistic is usually credited to the fact that the hedges serve not only cosmetic purposes, but also help with crowd control. Aiding this cause is that the hedges surround, and largely conceal, a low chain-link fence running through their branches around the circumference of the field.
- Through the 1994 season, the field only had the basic markings required for play. There weren't any logos at midfield or writing in the end zone, as had become commonplace in many stadiums.
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- Steadman Vincent Sanford
- Lukacs, John D. "A journey back "between the hedges"". ESPN.com. ESPN. Retrieved October 12, 2009.
- Sharpe, Wilton (2005). "Chapter 11". Bulldog Madness: Great Eras in Georgia Football. Nashville, Tennessee: Cumberland House. p. 209. ISBN 1-58182-447-5.
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- Weiszer, Marc (February 25, 2011). "UGA-Florida ticket hike delayed". Athens Banner-Herald. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
- "Georgia approves $63 million renovation to Sanford Stadium". Athens Banner-Herald. February 14, 2017. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
- "All-Americans" (PDF). p. 177.
- "Georgia Tech vs. Georgia - Game Recap - November 29, 2014 - ESPN". ESPN.com.
- 1996 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 1. p. 543.
- 1996 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 3. p. 455.
- Federation, United States Soccer (April 23, 2009). "The Official Site of U.S. Soccer - Federation Services". Archived from the original on April 26, 2009. Retrieved May 9, 2009.