Georgia became the last team in the SEC to build an indoor practice facility. It’s likely among the few in the conference not to have a designated recruiting room at its home stadium.
All of that is changing now that Georgia is doing its part to catch up with other SEC programs when it comes to facilities.
One of the things Smart trumpeted upon his hire last year was the need to upgrade the facilities on campus.
For Smart, this is a good start, although the indoor practice facility and west end zone additions were already in the works prior to his arrival. But it’s at least a step in a direction many other SEC programs have been heading for quite a while.
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“I certainly think we’re always playing a bit of catch-up when it comes to people in our conference,” Smart said. “A lot of teams in the (SEC) West, obviously, have had these venues. I think most of the places I’ve been at stadiums have had a recruiting room or a place to host recruits. So we want to catch up to that. But we also want to go beyond that. We want to do a better job and have a nice place for our players.”
As for the west end zone project, a new locker room and a recruiting lounge will be constructed, among other things, in a $63 million project. Smart emphasized the importance of a dedicated recruiting room for not only games but for official visits.
Over the past year, Smart would host recruits in the suites on visits and in the Letterman’s Lounge on game days – which sometimes would interfere with those who are otherwise designated to that particular room.
It will take until the 2018 season to use the new west end zone rooms but it’s something that should certainly aid Georgia in recruiting, Smart said.
“So much of your stadium now is used in recruiting,” Smart said. “It’s not just game day. It’s when kids come on visits. We ate dinners up at the stadium. Now we’ve got a place we can host a dinner and look out at the stadium with a different perspective, over where our locker room is other than where the sky box is.”
As for the indoor practice facility, which had an official dedication Tuesday, Smart noted how impressed he was now that’s been constructed.
He also said that a lot of recruits saw the construction but didn’t see the finished building until recently.
“To be honest with you, most of the guys we were recruiting had seen the progress throughout,” Smart said. “They hadn’t seen the finished product. When you see dirt and things get moved around, and poles, you never realize it can become this. We’re glad it has. It helped a lot in recruiting.”
The biggest advantage of having the indoor facility, Smart said, is to be able to practice inside when it’s either too hot or too cold.
Not too long ago, a group of former Georgia players visited Smart to take a tour of the indoor practice facility. Among those were Champ Bailey, Marcus Stroud and Richard Seymour. When those three were playing at Georgia, they didn’t have the indoor option. Seeing it firsthand at the school they played for impressed them, Smart said.
“It was amazing to see their faces because so many of them have practiced on this ground,” Smart said. “It was grass. It was hot. Now it’s covered up. It’s a special place, one of the most beautiful in the country. That speaks volumes to our commitment to athletics and also to football. It means a lot to our players of our team to be able to use it. We were fortunate to get in here for the bowl game for some stuff. So it helped out even then. It helps out when it’s really cold as well as when it’s really hot.”