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  • Writer's pictureDavid Welch

Jack Turner Softball Stadium - Georgia Bulldogs



Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Jack Turner Softball Stadium 2330 S Milledge Avenue Athens, GA 30605

Year Opened: 2004 Capacity: 2,000


How ‘Bout Them Dawgs

The University of Georgia athletics has always been known as one of the powers of college football, and with good reason, as the recent successes of Georgia football has moved them from an annual contender in the SEC and nationally to the odds-on favorite each season. As Georgia football has all the makings of the next football dynasty, many other of the University of Georgia’s athletic programs have experienced their own high level of success on the national level as well.


Lu Harris-Champer has been referred to as the architect of Georgia softball, but credit for the groundwork upon which the foundation was built upon needs to go the Bulldogs’ original leader, Alleen Hawkins. It would be Hawkins, who in 1997 when the Southeastern Conference (SEC) began sponsoring softball as a varsity sport, would lead the early years of Georgia softball.


It would be under Harris-Champer, however, when UGA softball would take off – she would lead the Dawgs to over 950 wins in her 21-seasons in Athens, including two regular-season championships, one SEC tournament title, and five trips to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series.


Georgia softball rose out of modest beginnings, starting play at the UGA intramural fields for their first two seasons. The Dawgs would find a home at the site of their current stadium in 1998, but it wouldn’t be until the 2004 season that Jack Turner Stadium was built.

Food & Beverage   3

At first impression, concessions seem to be rather lacking here, with the stand under the bleachers serving mainly beverages and snacks. A second concession stand, under the bleachers of the neighboring soccer stadium, sits behind the third base side of the grandstand – this stand provides a bit more of the stadium staples, with choices including hot dogs, BBQ sandwiches, nachos, and soft pretzels. The sleeper of the menu is probably the uniquely southern treat of boiled peanuts.


Soft drink selections include offerings from the Coca-Cola family, along with Powerade and Dasani bottled water. For those seeking alcoholic beverages, common domestic beers, Twisted Tea, High Noon hard seltzer, and craft beer from Athens brewery Creature Comforts are also available.


While concessions are as expected, the options are a bit less than inspiring. There is an ice cream stand that does help in expanding the choices, but it can only be so enticing during cold weather.

 

Atmosphere   4

Jack Turner Softball Stadium is mostly an open, aluminum structure that rises high above the field of play.  Aluminum bleacher seating is concentrated between first and third base, with the section of seating directly behind home plate made up of 12 rows of individual folding seats, while the rest of the seating runs from first base around to third. Temporary bleachers and standing room sections flank the bullpen areas on each side of the field.


The nature of a fully aluminum grandstand is that stomping is amplified throughout the stadium, and the in-game presentation makes full use of this, playing sound drops throughout the game that encourage fans to stomp and make noise.


The main scoreboard in right field gives fans a plethora of information; typical inning-by-inning line score, ball-strikeouts, lineup, and pitcher and batter stats, along with pitch speed.  The future of player development for UGA softball is also taking shape over the left field wall, as a new team facility is currently being built, which will house meeting rooms, training spaces, locker rooms, and a weight room.

Although lacking an in-game host, Jack Turner Softball Stadium's PA announcer introduces mid-inning fan interaction activities and inflatable character races around the outfield warning track. In addition, throughout breaks in the game the heavy use of the Georgia cheers, fight song, and other traditions goes a long way in setting the tone of college athletics.


When it comes to seating options, there is a short reaching roofline that extends over the upper most rows of seating, providing a bit of relief from the elements. The sun sets beyond the corner of left field, so there can be a challenging sun field for those along the first base side, however.

 

Neighborhood   4

Jack Turner Softball Stadium is just under 2 miles from the southernmost reaches of the University of Georgia campus in Athens, where the city starts to transition from college town to rural Georgia countryside.


Not only is the complex home to Georgia softball, but the Bulldogs soccer stadium is also directly behind the third base stands, just around the corner from University Golf Course, home to Georgia golf (which is open to the public).


The immediate area is a bit lacking when it comes to food choices, with a Waffle House, Athens Pizza, and Butt Hurt BBQ being the primary options. Broad Street, the epicenter of UGA’s entertainment district, is roughly a 15-minute drive away, but virtually has something for everyone, at nearly any hour of the day.

 

Fans   4

Averaging over 1,000 fans a game, University of Georgia softball ranks in the top 25 nationally in attendance; fans will frequently line up at the stadium an hour before they are allowed to access the seating area.


Compared to most of Georgia’s other athletic programs, the fan base at softball games tends to be more centered around families with younger children. There are a smattering of students who sit in the section behind the Dawgs dugout, but they tend to be rather reserved for what might be expected from students.


Even if the students might not be the core of the fan experience, families and their young children are the biggest backers of Georgia Bulldog softball and create much of the spirit in the stands. If there is one thing that can be said about Georgia fans, it is that they love and hold dear the traditions of the university, ready to burst into song at the drop of the first note of any of the popular spirit songs.

Access   3

Getting to Athens can present some challenges, especially for any weekday contests. Located roughly 70 miles from Atlanta, the route to Athens uses some of metro Atlanta’s most traveled interstates and highways. The most direct route is via Interstate-85 to Georgia 316, which leads directly to Athens. Those coming from the north on I-85 may encounter slightly less traffic passing through Jefferson, while accessing Athens from the east is most convenient via I-20 to US-441N. Jack Turner Softball Stadium is less than a mile from US-78, which encircles Athens.


There is a good amount of parking around the stadium, which continues to an adjacent grassy area. With the complex being off the main concentration of campus, it is nice that there is a campus shuttle that services the athletics complex.


Fans are held at the entry drive to the stadium until an hour prior to the first pitch. Once allowed into the stadium, most fans use the stairs up the first base line to enter the seating area.  Bleacher seating runs right down behind the dugouts to an awkward row of seating that has enough space for fans to try to pass by, but there really is not enough space where this pathway is advisable.


There are four staircases that lead to the upper level of the seating bowl, as well as an elevator for those with mobility challenges.

 

Return on Investment   5

With free parking and free admission, it would be hard to ask for much more when it comes to the cost of attending Georgia softball games. The only true cost at the stadium is from the concessions, which are reasonably priced when considering the typical price of stadium food and drinks. Even so, making concessions prices more affordable has been a focus of the university in recent years.

 

Extras   3

Georgia athletics is a carefully crafted brand, in that there is consistency throughout the athletics programs in their use of the school’s fight songs, as well as the use of other traditions to get fans on their feet and cheering – from the first pitch thru the visiting team getting the “Calling of the Dawgs,” with a “Goooooooo Dawgs, Sic’ ‘em…*woof* woof woof”, as is tradition for Georgia football kickoffs, to the “Krypton Fanfare” as the game heads into the final inning, and finally the use of “Glory, Glory to Old Georgia” for highlight-worthy plays.


Following the game the Georgia players gather in front of the home bleachers to recognize and thank the fans for their support. In addition, placards lining the facade of the press box recognize the Bulldogs five appearances in the College Softball World Series. 

 

Final Thoughts

Softball at the University of Georgia might be one of the most family friendly experiences on campus; it would be difficult to find an outing around Athens where a whole family can attend an event for free that has the same air of excitement UGA softball.


The experience at Jack Turner Softball Stadium wonderfully highlights the traditions and school spirit that college athletics was built on. Surrounded by passionate Georgia fans and their willingness to “Commit to the G” running so deep, it is hard not to get caught up in the excitement that drives so much of the experience of University of Georgia softball.

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