Words by Woody Bass
The success or failure of any collegiate athletic program rests on the great trinity of facilities, coaching and recruiting. Athletic Departments across the country have set forth in a war of extravagance and excess to lure the nation’s best talent to their respective programs and keep fans out of their living rooms and in person at athletic events.
Facilities matter to coaches and recruits, alike. Georgia State University, in the infancy of building an athletic program comparable to powerhouses like Alabama and Texas A&M, currently sits at the base of Mount Everest looking up at the competition leaving them far behind.
Texas A&M is in the midst of $450 million in upgrades to Kyle Field–$15 million in upgrades to the Bright Football Complex which houses the team’s locker, training and meeting rooms and coaches offices, not included. Other schools, like Alabama and Oregon are investing heavy dollar amounts too in an off the field war to determine who has the better facilities in the country.
The point is facilities are not cheap and the GSU Alumni pockets are not quite as deep as we see in more established programs to pay for much of any facilities much less those that mirror “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
The administration at Georgia State is following protocol in order for their athletic programs to one day compete at a high level. Like most successful programs, a well thought out plan has been put in motion to determine the programs needs for future sustainability.
The Panthers first step is upgrading the weight room at their practice facility. GSU AD Charlie Cobb told the AJC that he hopes the new strength and conditioning center will be ready for the team to move in and get to work by early August.
While that is certainly is a small step in the right direction, GSU does have bigger issues to address. The Georgia Dome will be demolished in the coming years with the Atlanta Falcons moving to a new home, leaving the Panther football team without a place to call home. Unfortunately [for GSU] the options for available land for such facilities within the immediate confines of the campus are limited.
In another instance of potential space, the Atlanta Braves announced they will be departing Turner Field and moving into their new stadium–currently being constructed in Cobb County– in 2017.
GSU’s administration set forth creating a plan to potentially acquire and redevelop the land in and around Turner Field into mixed use development plans that would include a 30,000 seat football stadium, baseball stadium, student housing and retail.
Click here to see the $300 million plan GSU has for the area.
An ambitious plan without a doubt, that will be difficult to execute without the support of the City of Atlanta and its community. Mayor Kasim Reed has provided his support of the proposed project, along with the developer and GSU having opened lines of communication with the surrounding communities. The same site however, does have plenty of suitors which could derail GSU plans.
Fans of Panther athletics want to see their football program have the same success their basketball team is starting to see. Coaches want to attract higher level talent to their teams, hopefully leading to an increased count in the win total and eventually hang championship banners. Athletes and fans alike want a home to call their own.
None of that will happen without a significant investment by the University and its alumni.
This is a crucial time for Panther athletics with such a great opportunity and with very limited other options available, the university must find a way to secure the land rights to Turner Field and transform the area into a place their fans, alumni and students can call home.
Woody Bass is a sports writer at the Collegian. Follow him on Twitter for sports related topics.