Backstory and Context
In the 1920s, the University of Georgia’s football program expanded and talks began about building a new stadium on campus. After Dr. Steadman V. Sanford, former athletic director and president of the University, decided to move the team’s playing ground to the location of the current Sanford Stadium, he and other football boosters from Atlanta planned to build a completely new modern stadium in the heart of campus.1 The advocacy for the new stadium was not only athletic based, but Sanford knew that the stadium would draw bigger crowds, more worthy opponents, which would “advance public and legislative support for higher education.”1 Sanford’s influence and efforts toward creating the stadium would become the reason why for naming it after him. As news spread about the construction of the stadium, many architectural and engineering firms reached out to the University looking to complete the project. A letter from Atwood and Nash Inc., shown below, describes their interest in the project. The letter explains previous projects they have completed, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill stadium.2 The University would soon accept their business as construction began less than a year.
Construction commenced in 1928 just below nearby Memorial Hall, where a natural valley was deemed the perfect location for the stadium. The early construction required the help of demolitions to remove land, and in some cases damaged homes, as seen in a letter to a nearby resident.3 When the land was cleared for construction, horses were used to carry and move material across the site and aided in the construction of the stadium.4 The stadium was completed by October 1929, and the first game on the field was the dedication game against Yale University. Over 30,000 spectators watched the UGA victory from the stadium and all governors from across the south were in attendance. The stadium, an engineering work of art, attracted the largest crowd to ever observe a southern college football game.5
A special feature of the Stadium are the hedges that the Georgia Bulldogs play between. On both sides of the field, there stretches a long line of hedges that have been there since the completion of the stadium, as seen in the photo from 1933.6 The initial idea was to plant rose bushes along the sides, but after university horticulturists said that the rose bushes wouldn’t grow well in the Athens climate, they decided to plant privet ligustrum instead.5
Since its completion,
Sanford Stadium has gone through many expansions and transformations, and is
now one of the biggest stadiums in the country. The Georgia Bulldogs throughout
the 20th and 21st century have had many remarkable players perform on the
field, such as Hershel Walker and Todd Gurley III. The Bulldogs have also had
outstanding seasons including the 1980 National Championship win and the 2018
Rose Bowl win. The University of Georgia is known for having an excellent
football team, and Sanford Stadium plays the perfect role as home field as its
setting in the heart of campus.
2 T.C., Atwood. Letter to Charles M. Snelling. 16 December 1927. Box 5. Folder 42. Charles Mercer Snelling papers. University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries, Athens GA. 23 April 2018.
3 Chancellor Snelling. Letter to Resident Mr. Raiford. 14 December 1928. Box 5. Folder 42. Charles Mercer Snelling papers. University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries, Athens GA. 23 April 2018.
4 Sanford Stadium Construction Photograph. Box 5. Folder 42. Charles Mercer Snelling papers. University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries, Athens GA. 23 April 2018.
5 Lukacs, John D. "A Journey Back 'between the Hedges'." ESPN. October 12, 2009. Accessed April 24, 2018. http://www.espn.com/college-football/news/story?id=4552978.
6 Arial Sanford Stadium Photo. 20 December 1933. Box 5. Folder 42. Charles Mercer Snelling papers. University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries, Athens GA. 23 April 2018.