A major expansion of the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall — 165,000 square feet of new and improved space that will include a much larger operating area for the Bulldogs’ football program — was approved by the University of Georgia Athletic Association Board of Directors during its quarterly meeting here Friday.
After today’s unanimous approval by the Board, the Butts Mehre expansion project will be presented for consideration by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia at one of its meetings later this fall.
The Butts Mehre building has served as the administrative center for the Athletic Association, as well as the operational hub for the football program, since 1987. In those 32 years it has undergone a number of renovations and expansions, most recently the William Porter Payne and Porter Otis Payne Indoor Athletic Facility, which opened in 2017.
The latest project, at an estimated cost of $80 million, will add a greatly expanded weight room, locker room, meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and sports medicine facility, as well as a number of other improvements for the football program. Construction for the first phase is projected to begin in January of 2020 and would be completed by April of 2021, according to J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity. Phase two of the project will include a small portion of new construction and renovation of existing space, and would be completed by January of 2022, McGarity said.
Other highlights of the meeting included:
• In his own report, McGarity also thanked the many fans that traveled to Nashville for Georgia’s season-opening football win at Vanderbilt. Bulldog faithful were estimated to comprise 75 percent of the fans that filled Vanderbilt Stadium last Saturday. McGarity also urged everyone to arrive early for Saturday’s home opener vs. Murray State for the dedication of Dooley Field, scheduled for 3:30 in advance of the 4:00 p.m. kickoff.
• A presentation by Deputy Athletic Director Josh Brooks on the Butts-Mehre expansion project. Brooks also updated the Board on other ongoing projects, including the Equestrian team’s facility in Bishop, Ga., and the grandstand at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
• A presentation from women’s basketball head coach Joni Taylor on her team’s recent trip to Italy. The Lady Bulldogs visited Rome, Florence, Venice and Trieste on their 11-day journey that included three victories on the court. Team members Caitlin Hose, Maya Caldwell, Stephanie Paul, Mikayla Coombs and Ari Henderson also contributed to the team’s presentation.
• An educational session on compliance by Executive Associate AD Will Lawler.
• A glowing academic report from Faculty Athletics Representative David Shipley. The most prominent information he shared was the 2.99 overall grade point recorded by all UGA student-athletes in the 2018-19 academic year. The cross country teams had the highest GPAs among all men’s and women’s teams, with the men taking top honors overall with a 3.49 average.
• A report on the football student ticketing process from student representative Will Harper, a senior Finance major from Norcross. Student-athlete representatives Walker Higgins (men’s swimming & diving) and Sabrina Vega (gymnastics) also spoke on a number of activities associated with The Georgia Way, UGA’s program for career development.