6. SANFORD STADIUM

View of Sanford Stadium through the trees, via Geolocations View of Sanford Stadium through the trees, via Geolocations https://geolocation.ws/v/P/39629439/sanford-stadium-football-field-at-the/en

Sanford Stadium
Athens, Georgia
Home of the University of Georgia Bulldogs

The roadshow continues to Athens, GA and Sanford Stadium, home to the Georgia Bulldogs, one of the historic powers of national college football. Built in 1929 in a natural ravine amidst the old campus, Sanford Stadium is currently the ninth largest stadium in the country. Sanford Stadium is wonderfully integrated into the campus, the inner guts visible from neighboring roads and the beautiful trees and campus buildings visible from your seat inside the stadium.

Sanford Stadium was originally built in response to the Bulldogs having to play at rival Georgia Tech’s home field, the much larger Grant Field (now Bobby Dodd Stadium) in Atlanta. Dr. Steadman Vincent Sanford, then UGA faculty member and eventual University president, raised money for the new stadium through the sale of bank loan guarantees to athletic association members in exchange for lifetime tickets. The original single-tiered building held 30,000 spectators and was designed by TC Atwood, architect of Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC.

Postcard view of the original Sanford Stadium ,via Star Spangled Banana

Wanting to capitalize on the success of the Vince Dooley led Bulldogs, University of Georgia officials chose to expand Sanford Stadium in the late 1967.  The siting of the stadium amidst the old campus, with buildings to the north and south (Sanford Stadium is one of the few east-west oriented stadiums) such an expansion proved difficult and prevented an expansion of the single bowl.  The solution was to add a second deck, providing an additional 19,000 seats within the small confines of the site, bringing capacity to 59,000 without affecting any of the neighboring buildings.  Georgia won the national championship the next year.

Sanford Stadium’s new upper deck c.1967, via Atlanta History Center

In 1980 Georgia won its second national championship under head coach Vince Dooley and expansion of Sanford Stadium was in the cards again.  This time the upper level was extended around the east endzone, bringing capacity to 82,122.  This expansion brought an end to the “track people”, a tradition where students would watch the games for free from the railroad tracks passing by the stadium to the east.

“The Track People” watch the game from the railroad track east of the stadium, via Dawg Sports
Sanford Stadium with an enclosed east end c.1981, via Online Athens

In 2003 a third tier was added to Sanford Stadium, bringing capacity to over 92,000 and making it the ninth largest stadium in the United States. Possible further expansion could continue the third deck around the east end, bringing capacity up to over 100,000.

Enclosing the west end of the stadium has also been discussed, however Gillis Bridge, a main connection across the valley between two parts of campus complicates this plan.  University architect Danny Sniff has also indicated a desire to keep this end open in order to preserve the view of neighboring campus buildings and I think this is a wise decision.  The open west end allows for a unique vantage point into the stadium from Gillis Bridge and is a cool gathering spot for fans on gameday.  One of the wonderful aspects of Sanford Stadium is the ability to see the campus and the surroundings from inside the stadium, its buildings, its trees, its people.  To me that is one of the things that sets college stadiums apart from professional stadiums and Sanford Stadium is a great example of this.

View into Sanford Stadium from Gillis Bridge, via kwatson 0013 Flickr
The three decks of Sanford Stadium, via david.torcivia flickr
A view of Athens from inside Sanford Stadium, via Natalie Blackburn Flickr

Part of a series on the stadiums of the Top-10 Preseason College Football teams. Next up: No. 5 Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon