The prettiest little stadium in the South just got prettier… and bigger! Georgia Southern University, a powerhouse in the rural town of Statesboro, GA, recently entered the Sunbelt Conference for their entire athletic program as well as made some serious improvements to their facilities. After months of renovations to the football stadium, students and GSU fans will be able to cheer on their favorite team from the new, upper deck of Paulson Stadium, and the football team can use their new workout and training facilities that overlook their home turf in the Football Operations Center, or FOC.
Six flags wave in the breeze alongside the student section, one for each of the national championships that the Georgia Southern team achieved in previous years. “One More Time!” and “GATA” echo throughout the stadium. Tailgates and grills are left unattended as soon as game time grows close. GSU’s entire fall semester seems to revolve around the traditions and rituals centered around the football program.
Yellow buses line the streets hours before the set kickoff time. Fans patiently wait along the street to cheer for their favorite home team. Players and athletic trainers gather their pounds of equipment and gear from Hanner Fieldhouse across campus from the stadium in preparation to board the yellow school buses that will transport them from one side of campus to the other. Although this routine seemed part of Southern’s football traditions, an athletic program this big that only seemed to be growing needed an upgrade and a first-class football facility of its own.
On September 6, 2014, the Georgia Southern football team and entire athletic department will be able to showcase their new facilities against Savannah State for an evening game. The new facility includes an additional upper deck, a jumbotron that can document replays and fan reactions, a player’s lounge, a state-of-the-art workout room, coach and staff offices, a Hall of Fame room, meeting rooms, recruiting offices, athletic training center, and locker room for players and staff with showers and storage space. Needless to say, the Georgia Southern football team now possesses all the tools they need to prove themselves at a new level.
“The new facility allows us to have more people attend games, helps us with recruiting to set us up for a successful future,” Coach Willie Fritz said. “The student body and athletic department put a lot of foresight into this project.”
Coach Fritz, head coach for the GSU football team, discussed the incredible new facility and stadium with extreme pleasure and anticipation for the season from his newly designed office space.
“I think the facility looks beautiful, and I love looking out my window every day and seeing the stadium and field tucked between the Bishop Building and the Football Operations Center,” he said.
The previous stadium provided large, grassy areas at both ends of the field, but, with recent renovations, those areas now provide extra seating or areas for newly developed statues. The athletic department wanted to ensure that some green space remained, so the tradition of the Field of Dreams, an area in the end zone for children to play, will still be there right in front of the new FOC.
Strength coaches are not complaining about their new facility and offices, as they believe that they can now provide top-notch workout programs and treatment for the team.
“I feel like all the changes make the team want to go out to practice everyday and get better,” Santuan Stanley, a strength coach and graduate assistant said. “We are always telling the team at the beginning of practice to make this the best day ever, and they always strive to do better.”
“We have the most enthusiastic fans that show great support,” Edwin Jackson, senior linebacker said. “It feels great that we could make adjustments for them because they deserve it. When your a player it makes you want to work harder to play in a stadium this intense.”
Jackson and the team agree that the GSU tradition is centered around winning. After a tough loss to North Carolina State this past Saturday, they are striving to make practices even better this week in preparation for the first home game on Saturday.
“We want to strive for perfection everyday,” he said. “Everyday it’s a process and we want to handle the responsibilities like a championship team.”