Sanford Stadium has long been considered one of the most impressive and attractive football arenas in college football. Built in 1929, Sanford Stadium and its famous hedges have been the home of Georgia football for more than 60 years. The seating capacity of 86,117 makes it one of the largest on-campus college stadium in the country and the Bulldogs have been among the nation's top six teams in average home attendance 12 of the past 13 seasons. It has been the spawning ground to such champions as Frank Sinkwich, Charlie Trippi, Herschel Walker and Eric Zeier, it was only fitting that the history of this stadium would include the 1996 Olympic soccer medal games.
Named for the late Dr. S. V. Sanford, former president of the University and Chancellor of the University system, the Bulldogs' home has held crowds of 86,520 on fall Saturdays.
Completed in 1994 was a $6 million addition which provides 30 luxury SkySuites atop the South side upper deck. This project, along with the 1991 West end zone addition has brought the stadium capacity to 86,117.
These most recent expansions are quite an improvement from the overflow crowd of 30,000 which saw the stadium's first game on October 12, 1929, when Yale University made its only trip South. Georgia won the now famous game when a young sophomore end from Macon, Vernon "Catfish" Smith, scored all 15 of the Bulldogs points. Final score, Georgia 15, Yale 0.
Through the years, the stadium has experienced various expansion projects. In 1940, lights were added to the field level paving the way to the first Sanford Stadium night game, a 7-7 tie between Georgia and Kentucky on October 26, 1940. The Stadium was doubledecked in 1967 at a cost of three million dollars.
Eventually, the East end of the stadium was enclosed, more lights added, and the capacity increased to 82,122. The 1991 project cost the University Athletic Association $3.7 million and enclosed the West end. The price tag was rather hefty, considering that the original price to build the stadium was a mere $360,000.
The Bulldogs claim it is the best "spectator stadium" in the South, more good seats on the sides of the field than any other stadium in Dixie.
Legendary Sanford Stadium added yet another chapter to its history by hosting the medal round of the 1996 Olympic soccer competition watched via television by over 3 billion people around the world.
Centennial Olympic Games
|For 66 years, from Oct. 12, 1929, until Nov. 11, 1995, a hedgerow of ligustrum sinense, better known as "common privet," encircled the football playing field at Sanford Stadium. As a result, playing Georgia in Athens became synonymous with playing "between the Hedges." And that phrase has become as much a part of University of Georgia tradition as the Arch, the Chapel Bell and Uga himself. But the Hedges had to be removed, much to the dismay of some of the most staunch Georgia supporters, to accommodate the construction of a soccer pitch at the stadium for the 1996 Olympics.
There may be no college mascot in the country that is more well-known than the University of Georgia's Uga, a line of white bulldogs owned since 1956 by Sonny Seiler of Savannah. Although Uga's main duties are with the Georgia athletic teams, he serves the university in other ways as well, attending alumni meetings all over the state. Uga also gives of his time, photos and autographs for fund-raising campaigns for various charities.
The Centennial Olympic Games of 1996 added a historic chapter to the 70-plus year history of Sanford Stadium. The home of the Bulldogs hosted the medal round of the men's and women's Olympic soccer in July, 1996.
The six days of competition featured a sold-out men's gold medal game as Nigeria upset Argentina, 3-2, before a sellout crowd of 86,117. The United States team won the first Olympic women's soccer gold medal with a dramatic 2-1 victory over China before the largest crowd ever to see a women's soccer game--76,481. Sanford Stadium experienced a remarkable transformation from home of American football to the host for "world" football. The site and setting were heralded as one of the greatest hosts for soccer anywhere in the world as Sanford Stadium greeted teams and fans from every continent.
Because the required dimensions of a soccer field are larger than for 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 and cultivated at a secret off-site location for three years prior to the Olympics. 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 their off-site location to the stadium.
* Georgia's deceased mascots (UGAs I-VI, all descendants of the original white Bulldog) are actually buried or entombed in the southwest corner of the stadium.
* In lieu of a traditional or block-letter "G", Georgia's football-shaped "G" logo marks the goal line.
* Sanford Stadium is also one of the few college stadiums, and the only one in the Southeastern Confernece, in which the football field is oriented to face East-West as opposed to North-South. 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 east 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 with a fourth quarter touchdown. 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.
FIRST GAME: 10/12/1929 - Ga. 15, Yale 0 (Att. 30,000+)
FIRST NIGHT GAME: 10/ 26/1940 - Georgia 7, Kentucky 7
FIRST NIGHT GAME, NEW LIGHTS: 9/6/1982 Georgia 13, Clemson 7
FIRST LOSS: 11/ 2/1929 - Tulane 21, Georgia 15
LONGEST HOME STREAK: 24 wins (9/13/1980- 11/12/1983)
From Atlanta on I-85 -- Take I-85 North. Exit right onto Highway 316 at Exit 41. Proceed on highway 316 approximately 35-40 miles. Exit right onto the Athens Bypass (Loop 10) southbound. Continue on Loop 10. Take College Station Road Exit and turn left at the bottom of the ramp. Go to second traffic light and turn right onto East Campus Rd.
From Augusta on I-20 -- Take I-20 west from Augusta and exit onto Highway 78 (north and/or west). Continue on Highway 78 to Athens. Turn left onto the Athens Bypass (Loop 10) southbound (signs to Watkinsville). Exit right at College Station Rd. Turn right at bottom of the ramp. Go over the railroad track and turn right at the light.
From Atlanta Airport -- Get directions to I-285 south and/or east. Go approximately 17 miles and exit onto I-20 east for approximately 20 miles. Exit right at Conyers (Highway 138, Exit 42). Turn left at top of ramp (Hwy 138). Continue for approximately 20 miles where Hwy 138 will merge into Hwy. 78 east. Continue on 78 east for approximately 15 miles and turn right onto Highway 316. Go approximately 4-5 miles until you reach the Athens Bypass (Loop 10). Turn right (southbound). Continue on Loop 10. Take College Station Road Exit and turn left at the bottom of the ramp. Go to second traffic light and turn right onto East Campus Rd.
From Greenville (I-85) -- Take I-85 South. Exit at the Carnesville-Athens Exit (Hwy. 106).Turn left, go over interstate and proceed on Hwy 106 thru Carnesville; approx 1 mile after Carnesville take the left fork at a convenience store and continue on Hwy 106 to Ila and onto Athens. Hwy 106 will become North Ave. as you enter Athens; continue on North Ave. into downtown Athens area where you will cross over Oconee river bridge; proceed up hill to the 1st traffic light and turn left on Thomas street. Continue down Thomas which becomes East Campus Rd. The stadium is on your right.
From Birmingham on I-20 -- Take I-20 east from Birmingham. Exit right at Conyers (Highway 138, Exit 42). Turn left at top of ramp (Hwy 138). Continue for approximately 20 miles where Hwy 138 will merge into Hwy. 78 east. Continue on 78 east for approximately 15 miles and turn right onto Highway 316. Go approximately 4-5 miles until you reach the Athens Bypass (Loop 10). Turn right (southbound). Continue on Loop 10. Take College Station Road Exit and turn left at the bottom of the ramp. Go to second traffic light and turn right onto East Campus Rd.
Source: Georgia Athletic Association