ATHENS, Ga. — The University of Georgia is hoping for a full campus and a full stadium come this fall.
UGA announced it is planning on "normal" operations for the upcoming fall semester, and so is the athletic department. Georgia Athletic Director Josh Brooks told 11Alive in an interview that athletics is planning on having full stadiums by the time the Dawgs open its football season in 2021.
"We have the mindset that we have to plan for full stadiums because there is so much operationally that we need to do in how we sell tickets, how we operate. We have to plan for full stadiums, "Brooks said.
Sanford Stadium was open to fans for the 2020 season, but was limited to about 20 to 25 percent capacity. Attendance at all three home games in the 2020 season was listed at 20,524. Sanford Stadium's capacity is 92,746.
Georgia is planning a similar structure for G-Day, the football's team's annual spring scrimmage, on April 17. Tickets are $10, but the proceeds will be donated to local charities which will be determined by the teams.
At one point, Georgia was looking at a possible budget deficit of $60 million due to the pandemic. However, due to strategic spending cuts and season ticket holders donating their ticket refunds to the University's COVID relief fund, the department was able to get about $22 million of it back to lower the deficit, according to Brooks. UGA hopes to get that deficit down even more by the end of the fiscal year in June.
Of course full stadiums would help as ticket sales are a main source of revenue for any sports team.
Brooks said it's easier to plan for full capacity, parking and staffing now and adjust back to a limited capacity if the pandemic warrants it.
"We can always pivot back," he said. "Come summer, whatever the guidelines are, whatever the recommendations are, we can review and adjust."
Whether or not that will happen depends on cases, vaccine distribution and herd immunity.
UGA Athletics can wait to decide until roughly a month before the season starts on its exact capacity. UGA will continue to have mobile ticketing, which makes it easier to adjust games and tickets on the fly.
"I'm hopeful that we will be kicking of in Charlotte against Clemson with a full stadium. I'm hopeful with this third vaccine that we can keep the vaccines going," Brooks said. "If we can get to that magic number of what the CDC says of number of people vaccinated and the cases started going down, I'm optimistic we'll be kicking off in Charlotte with a full stadium."