|"Between the Hedges"|
|Location||Sanford Dr and Field St, Athens, GA 30602|
|Opened||October 12, 1929|
|Expanded||1949, 1964, 1967, 1981, 1991, 1994, 2000, 2003|
|Owner||University of Georgia|
|Operator||University of Georgia|
($4.94 million in 2014 dollars)
|Georgia Bulldogs (NCAA) (1929–present)
1996 Summer Olympics - Football
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 seventh largest stadium in the NCAA. Architecturally, the stadium is known for the fact that its numerous expansions over the years 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 privet hedges, which have stood around the field, originally in 1929, but removed in the summer of 1996; new, albeit considerably shorter, hedges were restored in the fall of 1996. The stadium is the 8th largest non-racing stadium in the United States and the 14th largest such stadium in the world.
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. Tech's Grant Field in Atlanta held thousands of spectators, and Georgia was forced to play those match-ups almost exclusively at Tech's stadium. 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. Notably, Tech still uses Grant Field for its football games.
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 may be 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, with whom the University had historically maintained close ties, 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 30,000+ paid $3.00 per ticket to watch the Georgia 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 southern college football game, 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 famous hedges have encircled the field since the stadium's very 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. 6 other SEC Stadiums have copied UGA and now boast hedges, making this feature no longer unique to UGA, even though 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 as well. 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.
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 $3,000,000. 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.
Thirty 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, establish 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 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 25x46 feet to the full size of the scoreboard which is 52x76 feet. The new video board has full HD capability.
Notable Sanford Stadium games
- October 12, 1929: The first game played at Sanford Stadium - Georgia upset heavily favored Yale 15–0.
- October 26, 1940: The first night game at Sanford Stadium - Georgia and Kentucky play to a 7–7 tie.
- September 9, 1965: The Bulldogs upset Bear Bryant's 1965 Alabama Crimson Tide team 18-17 on a last second, controversial flea-flicker play. Alabama would win the national championship that season, with a final record of 9–1–1.
- September 13, 1980: Georgia began a streak of 24 consecutive home wins (a school record) by defeating Texas A&M 42–0. The Bulldogs would go on to win the national title in the 1980 season. This was also the home debut for Herschel Walker.
- September 6, 1982: The first game under the "new lights" was a 13–7 victory against Clemson.
- September 22, 1984: Playing against second-ranked Clemson, the Bulldogs won 26–23 on a late 60-yard field goal by Kevin Butler.
- October 28, 1995: The Florida vs. Georgia Football Classic was temporarily relocated to Sanford Stadium from Jacksonville during the 1995 season while the Gator Bowl stadium was being demolished and the new Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, now EverBank Field, was being constructed. This game is notable because Florida head coach Steve Spurrier was noted for running up the score, when he called for a flea-flicker for a touchdown while the Gators were up 45-17. This was because Coach Spurrier wanted to "hang half a hundred" on the Bulldogs in their own stadium. Florida easily won that game by a score of 52-17. This currently stands as the record for the most points scored on the Georgia Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium, and it is noteworthy as this blowout was posted by one of their most hated rivals.
- October 7, 2000: Georgia beats Tennessee in a stunning upset 21-10, and for the first time since 1988. This is the first, and last time, the goal posts have been torn down in Sanford Stadium as the students section rushed the field, and unfortunately the famous hedges were ruined in the celebration.
- September 3, 2005: Starting his first game for the Bulldogs, DJ Shockley set the school record for total touchdowns in a game by a quarterback with 6 (5 passing, 1 running) in a blowout of Boise State, a team many pundits picked to win.
- November 25, 2006: Matthew Stafford, a true freshman quarterback, led the Bulldogs to a last-minute victory against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The victory was not only exciting, it was the middle game in a three-game stretch where the Bulldogs beat three straight ranked opponents (Auburn, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech) for the first time in school history.
- November 10, 2007: After a very emotional and resounding win in Jacksonville against the #10 Florida Gators, the Bulldogs entered Sanford Stadium to play the Auburn Tigers wearing black jerseys for the first ever "Black Out." Georgia defeated Auburn 45-20.
1996 Summer Olympics
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, 3 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 would win 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 also 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 Endzone is still open and the sun shines in the faces of the players, although both teams face the sun during the game.
- Up 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 endzone. 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 endzone 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 the fact that the hedges surround, and largely conceal, a low chainlink fence running through their branches around the circumference of the field.
- As late as 1995, the field only had the basic markings required for play. There weren't even any logos at midfield or writing in the end zone, as had become commonplace in many stadiums.
- Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
- 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.
- Henning, Frank (October 3, 2003). "Between the Hedges and Beyond". Athens Banner-Herald. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
- Weiszer, Marc (February 25, 2011). "UGA-Florida ticket hike delayed". Athens Banner-Herald. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
- 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". Retrieved May 9, 2009.[dead link]
|Events and tenants|
Football Men's Finals (Sanford Stadium)
Sydney Olympic Stadium