June 20, 2024

Hunkering Down: Staying where Georgia boards its Dawgs

Venture into enemy territory at the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education and Hotel

Red, black and gray carpet, which looks like a psychedelic Judy Jetson design, ushers in guests. Windows next to the modern, sterile concierge desk greet interlopers with “go dawgs” scripted across in white. Those waiting to check in take their seats on ruddy upholstery and pick up recent editions of the 125-year-old Red & Black student newspaper.

Meanwhile, educators, conference attendees, students and others press the elevator buttons. The door emblazoned with a giant “G” opens. A floor-to-ceiling photo of Georgia mascot Uga X’s smug, bullish physique imposes against the back wall, welcoming all – especially alumni – to the Georgia Center for Continuing Education and Hotel.

It’s homecoming in Athens.

According to the NCAA, more than 34 million people attended Division I home football games in 2017. The largest college stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, accommodates 107,601 people, 94 percent of the city’s total population. Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee holds 102,455 seats. At the University of Georgia, Sanford Stadium hosts 92,746 fans. Though some fans live in close proximity, a multitude must reserve hotel rooms like those at the Georgia Center.

The hotel opened its doors to the oldest public university’s visitors in 1957 when the W.K. Kellog Foundation and the state of Georgia funded the second Kellog Center. The first Kellog Center opened at Michigan State University in 1951. Endowed by the philanthropic Frosted Flakes creators, the hotel, by some standards, is more than good – it’s great.

“The conference area was great,” Yelp user Meredith R. said in her review. “So convenient to stay in the hotel and walk down the hall to class.”

Stepping off the elevator, other Southeastern Conference faithful, previously unsettled by glorified “Dawg” décor, see more appeasing neutral walls and heather dark carpet. Guests then walk toward 200 rooms and suites.

In standard rooms, white sheets and brown bed skirts hide any obvious hint of school spirit. Green carpet, drapes and walls lead around to a small closet and sink adjacent a bathroom with a shower resembling the one in “Psycho.” However, no traces of red, indicative of blood or Bulldog pride, exist.

How can a hotel in the SEC, where football “just means more,” not overwhelm with bedizened bulldogs for bedfellows?

Picking up the Directory of Hotel Services, guests flip to see the hotel creates its “more” with more amenities than a Hilton. Access to the UGA Golf Course and fitness facilities. Free bike rentals. Laundry and dry cleaning. Shuttles to downtown and around campus. Dozens of cable channels, including some in French, Russian and Chinese pulled from Atlanta signals.

Part-time student staff serves up meals three times per day in the Courtyard Café, Savannah Room and Georgia Java as they work to “achieve high levels of professionalism.”

Though professionalism may be high, some find the food subpar.

“The plated and buffet lunches I’ve had were both downright disgusting,” Kristin B. said. “Whether it was ham in a mysterious pineapple sauce with maraschino cherries or hacked up chicken in a cornstarch-thickened ‘mushroom’ sauce, all the entrees were questionable at best.”

The menu’s variety including loaded potato chips, salmon, shrimp and grits, ahi tuna salad, pan seared mahi mahi, meatloaf, three different burgers, ribeyes and veggie burgers impressed other guests like Nikolai C., though he said the “bacon was pretty substandard.”

Despite delectable deficiencies, guests enjoy an on-campus living experience, one ideal for alumni who returned to relive their college days as the Bulldogs battle Vanderbilt on the gridiron to remain undefeated. Classrooms, historic Snelling dining hall (built 1939) and Sanford Stadium lie within short walking distance for those wishing to travel down memory lane.

Leaving the hotel, guests exit on South Lumpkin Street, which connects campus to downtown and the Macon highway. Visitors pass by Georgia’s church row, old dorms and Herty Field, the location of Georgia’s first football game in 1892.

The hotel management hopes to always win in the service game, home football weekend or not.

“Our team works very hard to ensure all our guests have a unique, positive experience when they stay with us,” General Manager Bill Bradberry said. “We hope to serve you and your family the next time your travels bring you to Athens.”

Though pets must stay at home, all Bulldogs, Gators, Tigers and more are welcome.


Featured photo by Lexie Little