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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Typically when you mention an SEC school and sports, people most often think of football and massive football facilities. However, the University of Georgia has one of the most successful college tennis programs in the country, with 38 SEC championships and six national championships for the men’s program, and two national championships for the women’s squad. The program owes much of its success to the stability of its coaching staff, with Dan Magill serving as the coach for 34 years and Manny Diaz, a national championship player under Magill, following his mentor as coach for the last 28 years, while women’s coach Jeff Wallace has been at UGA for 31 seasons.
The home court for both the men’s team and Lady Bulldogs is the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Under Magill’s leadership and fundraising skills, the University of Georgia has one of the top collegiate tennis facilities in the nation. The complex has seating for more than 5,000 fans in its outdoor Henry Field Stadium overlooking 12 courts, and the Lindsey Hopkins indoor facility has four courts available in the case of inclement weather. It was built in 1977, but has undergone frequent renovations every few years to keep it atop the collegiate tennis world. The NCAA recognizes the quality of the facility, as it has hosted a stunning 31 NCAA Championships for men and three National Championships for women. The NCAA will return again to Athens for the men’s and women’s Championships in spring 2017.
The facility goes far beyond the courts, as the men’s and women’s clubhouses resemble a Wimbledon-type setting. The landscaping throughout the complex is very lush. The men’s clubhouse overlooks Court One and includes enough locker room space to handle major tournaments, academic facilities, athletic staff offices and meeting areas. In addition, UGA maintains a museum that displays the history of UGA tennis, recognizes past Bulldog stars and features highlights of the many NCAA tournaments held at the Magill Tennis Complex. The women’s clubhouse mirrors the men’s facility in every way.
Coach Magill was known as ”Mr. Bulldog”, as he served as the University’s Sports Information Director in addition to his tennis duties. He was also known as one of the key individuals in the country in promoting college tennis and raising its profile greatly. Not content with just raising UGA's profile in the tennis world, he was responsible for the construction of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Hall of Fame on the UGA campus, in conjunction with the 100th NCAA Championship Tournament then taking place at the Magill Tennis Complex. As a fundraiser, he called on Athens native Kim Basinger to contribute funding for the lights for the tennis complex, and singer Kenny Rogers to provide funds for the Hall of Fame. The Hall recognizes stars of college tennis from all over the country and also maintains an amazing amount of tennis memorabilia. Coach Magill actively served as Director of the Hall of Fame until his death at the age of 93 in 2014.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food and beverage operations are primarily located underneath the bleachers, with auxiliary locations set up during larger events such as the NCAA Tournament. Items offered include Coca-Cola products, bottled water, hot dogs, candy, and barbecue sandwiches.
There is also an opportunity to "tailgate" at UGA tennis events. Due to its proximity to the Magill complex, many fans utilize the Carlton Street parking deck across the street for a pre-match gathering, or actually stay and get a bird's-eye view of all the action from the parking deck. As long as the fans pay for the number of parking spaces they are utilizing, the University has no problem with this practice. Inside the complex, there are numerous picnic areas near the wooded paths for fans to enjoy a break from the action in a more secluded area.
The atmosphere when you first see Magill Tennis Complex shows that this is a first-class program. Rather than a chain-link fence around some tennis courts with some aluminum bleachers, you are greeted with a wrought-iron gate and well-manicured gardens. You will also notice that the grandstand overlooking the courts is built into a hillside, creating a natural bowl. Rather than taking a steep set of stairs to your seats, you take a very gradual woodland path. Once in the stands, you have an unobstructed view of the four main courts. The concession areas are built under the grandstand, allowing an easy flow of fans between matches. A massive scoreboard keeps you updated on the status of each match taking place within the 12-court complex.
The University and the citizens are very proud of the program, and the matches and the NCAA tournaments are staffed in large by members of the community. They are very knowledgeable about tennis and the area, and treat everyone as if they are guests in their own home.
The clubhouses and the Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame also add to the feel of reverence of the game. Not only do they salute the history of tennis at UGA, they provide a broader perspective of tennis at the college level throughout the country.
Finally, the quality of play you will witness on the courts is very high. The SEC is one of the top conferences for tennis in the nation. The Bulldogs are contenders for the championship nearly every year, and they also play perpetually strong teams such as Michigan, Stanford and UCLA as a part of their non-conference schedule.
It is no surprise that the NCAA has chosen the Magill Tennis Complex to host its national championship tournament an astonishing 31 times.
The Magill Tennis Complex is an on-campus facility nestled in between Foley Field and the Stegeman Coliseum. The UGA campus surrounding the athletic complex is quite lovely and is very walkable. If you head south on Lumpkin Street, you will run into The Five Points intersections, which offers numerous dining possibilities. Taking Lumpkin north will bring you past the massive Sanford Stadium and deliver you to the heart of downtown Athens and Broad Street. Broad Street is filled with coffee shops, restaurants and clubs that serve the student population.
Athens has been noted as one of the Best Places to Live, one of the Best Places to Retire and One of the Best College Towns in America by such publications such as GQ, Forbes and Travel and Leisure. This is due to its lively cultural offerings, a vibrant downtown shopping district, excellent hospitals and great athletic programs on campus. Among the restaurants and clubs within walking distance of the campus are the Creature Comforts Brewery, the Terrapin Beer Company, Dawg Gone Good BBQ and Fuzzy's Taco Shop.
Lodging near the campus includes the Hotel Indigo and the Holiday Inn University
Collegiate tennis fans tend to be more vocal in their support of their school, as it is more of a team sport than focusing on one particular individual. Issues such as school pride, ratings within a league and rivalries play into the fervor of the fans at a match. You are also likely to see things more commonly found at other sports activities, such as teams' pep bands playing the school fight songs to students and coeds painting themselves in school colors. UGA students are very supportive of both the men's and women's teams, due to the strong history of the sport at the university. While the NCAA tournaments draw fans from all over the country and fill the stadium to capacity, the regular season matches tend to be made of student body members and the very strong tennis communities found both in Athens and the Atlanta areas. Typical attendance at a regular season match can range from 500 to 2,000 fans, depending on the competition. In addition to its round-robin schedule with SEC foes, Georgia also takes on perennial national powerhouses, such as Stanford, UCLA and Michigan.
The fervor and vocal nature of the crowd is always done within the etiquette found in the tennis world. Cheers will follow an excellent shot or long volley, or during switchovers on the court.
The Magill Tennis complex is located within UGA's main sports campus, as it is next door to Foley Field (baseball) and behind Stegeman Coliseum (basketball). Parking is available in the Carlton Street Parking Deck across the street from the complex for $5. There are numerous gates for entry into the complex. The tennis facility is just a block off Lumpkin Street, one of the main thoroughfares through the campus. During the NCAA tournament, the University's transit system will run shuttles from nearby satellite lots.
Georgia tennis matches are free of charge during the regular season. Post-season ticket prices are determined by the SEC and the NCAA. Usually, a day ticket will run between $5 and $10. A majority of the students attending the matches either walk to the complex or take advantage of the free University bus system. Fans from out of town can park literally across the street from the Magill complex in the Carlton Street garage, which typically charges $5 during special event periods. The concessions and merchandise sold at the Magill complex are reasonably priced. Fans attending matches at the UGA Tennis complex can expect reasonable set prices that will match their budgets.
Once again, the Magill Tennis Complex deserves its own extra, due to the quality of the actual competition areas, as well as the many additional components of the complex, including the ITA Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame.
Athens is known for its vibrant music scene, which is found just a couple of miles from the Magill Complex in downtown Athens. Among the groups who got their start in Athens are the B-52's, REM and Widespread Panic.
There is always some type of festival or celebration going on in Athens. These include the Athens Twilight Criterium Bike Race in April, the Classic City Brewfest, also in April, and the Athfest Music Festival in June.
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