An artist’s rendering of the improvements that will be made to Davis Wade Stadium on the campus of Mississippi State University. Photo by: Courtesy graphic
August 16, 2012 10:15:56 AM
STARKVILLE -- All the way up to the day of the announcement, Mississippi State University officials had been reticent on the subject of its Davis Wade Stadium renovation project.
On Wednesday, MSU unveiled the $75 million overhaul that had been discussed for more than two years as a part of the athletic department's initiative for the future.
The renovation will increase the stadium's capacity by 6,255 to 61,337 and provide additional premium seating, elevators, restrooms, and concessions and will create a new west-side premium area concourse.
"I don't think we're overbuilding or outpacing our demand in any way," MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said. "It's something where we feel our fans have spoken and said we'd like for these elements to be either refined at a certain level or increased to provide more comfort, and that's the important part of this project."
MSU officials said the renovation plan has more to do with making sure the second-oldest football stadium in a Bowl Championship Series league would be able to be modernized by the time construction is complete in the season-opener against the University of Southern Mississippi on Aug. 31, 2014.
"This isn't just seats, and it's important people understand a major objective was the aesthetics like the elevators and restrooms," Stricklin said. "We could have saved a lot of money putting a lot of seats in and not have been concerned with enhancing the overall atmosphere of the game-day experience for our fans."
The west-side renovation will include a rebuilt concourse under the stands, the addition of four high-capacity elevators, an increase in the number of restrooms and concession stands, and a brick facade that matches the new construction on the north end of the stadium. When construction is completed, Davis Wade Stadium, which opened in 1914, will see the number of elevators go from five to 12, and the number of restrooms go from 313 to 621. Permanent concession stands will increase from 110 to 156.
Stricklin talked repeatedly about the maroon brick showcased in the artist renderings and how the renovations will enable the design and look of Davis Wade Stadium to fit in even better with the rest of the buildings on the MSU campus.
"That part of the project was critical because we have a unique look to our campus when you mix the old-school feel with the new-look technology in our buildings on campus," Stricklin said. "As a graduate of this school, I'm proud of the job everybody associated with the project did to showcase the unique elements of our campus atmosphere."
The architectural firm LPK, of Meridian, and the Harrell Contracting Group, of Jackson, will handle the construction contract for the project.
The principal architect at LPK is Robert Luke, a MSU graduate, and LPK officials told The Dispatch on Tuesday a year-long investigation went into dissecting the critical elements to the MSU campus from an architectural standpoint before artist renderings were submitted for the project.
"We think our game-day experience at Mississippi State is one of the best in the nation,'' MSU President Mark Keenum said. "To be able to expand and create more opportunities for our alumni to attend and support our football team is exciting for us.''
Stricklin said the bleachers in the north end zone would be removed after this season to make room for the construction project. The north end zone will become a horseshoe shape around the large video board in the south end. Even with the expansion, MSU's stadium capacity will rank just 12th out of 14 programs in the Southeastern Conference.
MSU set numerous attendance records in recent years, having sold out 16 consecutive games, and have also sold out of football season tickets for three straight years.
"A lot of people are expanding stadiums because they think it's an arms race,'' MSU football coach Dan Mullen said. "We're doing it because we have a need to do it and our fans have shown it.''
In Mullen's four years as coach, he has seen construction begin on a $25 million football-only practice facility that likely will be completed in January and now a major renovation to the home stadium.
"I love the pressure," Mullen said. "Hopefully we have an SEC championship by the time we move into that new renovated stadium, and that'll create even more excitement for our fan base."
The $75 million, which is a lower figure than the previously estimated $80 million when artist renderings of this project were first shown nearly 18 months ago, will be funded by the sale of $68 million in bonds and $7 million in private donations. Stricklin said the officials he and Keenum have spoken to are more than confident the university can sell the 30-year bonds to support the project. The increased revenue from the ticket increase will go toward paying off the project.
"Our university has a remarkable credible bond rating with other construction projects on this campus," Stricklin said. "After talking with the people that handle that side of things, it's my understanding there's a heavy appetite even in this economy for this type of investment in this marketplace."
The north end also will accommodate a new high-definition video board similar in size to the one in the stadium's south end, which is among the largest in college athletics.
The MSU band still will be located in the north end zone, and according to Stricklin, will have a more convenient way to enter and to exit the field during pregame and halftime presentations.
The final touch for the new bowled-in north end zone will be a non-seated, field-level premium area called The Gridiron. It will provide a club-like atmosphere to any season ticket holder who buys a $750 season-long membership, regardless of that person's stadium seat location.
"We're in a big boy league here in the Southeastern Conference, and when you look around to our peers in the league, if we're going to compete in this marketplace then we have to have facilities that meet the needs of our program," Keenum said. "This is a natural progression for us to make the investment in our program and more importantly our alumni and fan base."
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