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Blog: Indoor practice facility `not a priority right now’

The Georgia Athletic Association’s board of directors is holding a three-day meeting this week in St. Simons.

The end-of-school-year annual gathering is where budgets and facility projects get approved.

Don’t look for any money being allocated for a full-scale indoor facility this week or any time soon for that matter.

“”It would be nice to have a practice facility indoor,” coach Mark Richt said last month. “It would be extremely nice to have it at our complex, at our football complex. …Do we have to have it? I don’t think we have to have it, but like I said it would be nice to have it.”

It’s not on the radar, athletic director Greg McGarity said.

Georgia completed an expansion of nearly $40 million to its Butts-Mehre building in 2011 that includes a 20-yard by 60-yard indoor turf field area.

A full-fledged indoor facility wasn’t part of those plans.

“When this facility was built that was the time to do it because of the footprint it presents,” McGarity said. “If you put an indoor facility in this green space here …it’s much, much more than the 100 yards long, well 120 yards long. You basically have to take out (two grass fields adjacent to the current building). To have the flexibility of turf fields goes away. You have to have grass fields. The decision was made back whenever those who made the decision that this is what we were going to have.”

Richt was part of those discussions with then athletic director Damon Evans.

“We’ve been offered the opportunity to have it over by soccer/softball in years past and I’ve not really been interested in that,” Richt said. “If I’m going to have it, I really want to have it where we practice on a daily basis. If you start your practice outside and then the weather gets bad and you’ve got to travel by buses and everybody’s got to go on the bus and travel two or three miles down the road and then you cool down and then all of a sudden you try to heat back up. Whereas if you have it right at your practice facility and the weather was a little bit ominous, you just immediately go right in there and keep it going. If we’re going to do it, I’d like to do it right there at our practice facility at the Butts-Mehre building.”

Building an indoor practice facility at the Butts-Mehre building isn’t cheap.

“Indoor practice, I get it,” McGarity said. “The indoor practice facility is used for I think the best case scenario is when you have lightning. We do have an area where we can go and as we know it’s a summer, early fall instance here. So we have a place to go, but we can go right back out on those two full practice fields of turf and not miss a beat. If we didn’t have those fields down there, yes, I can see where practicing on the grass, you would tear grass up, but in the last three years, yeah, we’ve had some days where you can go inside, but those you can count them on two hands. That’s an investment that’s probably in the neighborhood of 20 million dollars. I’m not so sure that’s something is a wise expense at this time. It’s something that was not a priority several years ago and it’s really not a priority right now.”

That means there may be some occasional griping.

Like when Georgia practiced for the SEC championship game last season.

“Ideally it would have been nice to have an indoor thing to practice in and crank the heat up a little bit to try get as close to what it would be in the game, but we don’t have that right now,” Richt said back then.

Or when quarterback Aaron Murray returned from a spring break trip saying: “I guess I was just pampered for the week because we got to use Oklahoma’s indoor facility a little bit. It’s nice, especially when it’s cold and windy to go in there, don’t worry about anything.”

He added: “I think it definitely hinders us a little bit. During the season if it’s lightning and raining or even a spring practice, once you start practice you can’t get it back. If it starts lightning and raining, it kind of stinks that you have to cancel a whole practice when you’re midway through it, the rest of practice. If you had a whole field, you could go in there. I’m probably going to get in trouble for saying all this.”

–Please follow me at Twitter.com/marcweiszer

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