4 weeks to go: Turner Field's transformation to GSU Stadium nearly complete
ATLANTA -- Turner Field's transformation is in the home stretch.
The former home to the Atlanta Braves is still searching for its official name, but the new home for the Georgia State Panthers is looking more like a football field.
11Alive visited the stadium with former Georgia State Panther and New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz on Friday. Nearly all of the seats in the new sections pulled in from the outfield have been installed, and the first of many phases of renovations is nearly completed.
The construction company has an anticipated completion date of Aug. 15, four days before the first event to be held in the stadium, the Corky Kell Classic. However, those within Georgia State believe the stadium's first phase will be completed well before that.
The turf could be installed as early as Monday or Tuesday, which is one of that final things to occur in the first phase.
The lights that tower above the current gravel floor look significantly different than typical stadium lights. The bulbs are more rounded, and they are LED. They are called the GameChanger System, and they are said to produce better light on the surface than the old round bulbs. They turn on at the flip of a switch and will be used for concerts, as well. They are similar to the lights installed at SunTrust Park. Some of the old lights are still up, but won't be taken down until later in the year or next season.
As for the stadium's name, there's a good chance the naming rights won't be determined in time for the season opener on Aug. 31 against Tennessee State. Until then, it will be referred to as Georgia State Stadium.
Friday was the first time Lutz, a native of Newnan, Georgia, had seen the stadium.
"It’s cool to see where we started and seeing that I watched all the baseball games here growing up, it’s cool to see it turn into a football field," he said.
Lutz played four seasons with the Panthers and is the school's career leader in field goals. He joined the program as a walk-on, eventually earned a scholarship, and then signed with the Baltimore Ravens after going undrafted. He signed with the Saints just a few months later.
"Just seeing the growth and seeing the foundation of the growth in the program. To see us starting out having to walk a mile to our weight room and now were moving into Turner Field, Georgia State Stadium, it’s just exciting to see where our program is going for the future," he said.
Lutz, who kicked 34 field goals for the Saints last season, still visits his alma mater to work out and talks with the coaches once every few weeks.
He's also got his eye on another stadium opening up close by, Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
"Being from here, you see the updates online. I think it'll be pretty sweet to play in it," he said on the Atlanta Falcons' new stadium, also opening in August. "Being able to play at the old Dome at Georgia State and to be able to play in the new Dome, it'll be kind of cool to see the differences."
Georgia State is currently in phase one of its plan for the stadium, which means downsizing it to 23,000 seats while ultimately getting the stadium to a usable state to play football. Other phases will follow the next year and includes building out the rest of the stadium and adding more seats. But the plans are evolving. The stadium is just part of a larger $300 million project with the developer, Carter, to turn the 68-acre area into a mixed-use development.