Construction continues on Davis Wade Stadium at Mississippi State University. Athletics Director Scott Stricklin says the stadium will be ready for kickoff this Saturday against Southern Miss. Photo by: Zach Odom/Dispatch Staff
August 25, 2014 9:40:44 AM
Renovations at Mississippi State University's Davis Wade Stadium, from the installation of more than 6,000 additional seats down to the university's emblem on new elevator buttons, will be ready for Saturday's kickoff against Southern Miss., MSU Athletics Director Scott Stricklin says.
The game will showcase the university's commitment to heighten fan experience at the historic college football stadium, Stricklin added.
Following the conclusion of 2012's football season, the almost $75 million project filled in the stadium's northern end zone with extra seats -- new club-level and other premium seating options are already sold out -- raising the stadium's capacity from about 55,000 to more than 61,000 individual spaces.
Additional capacity, however, was not the project's primary goal, Stricklin said. Besides the university's educational endeavors, its athletics program, he says, serves as another primary way the school interacts with potential students, faculty, alumni and those that aren't directly affiliated with MSU.
Tying together the stadium renovation with other campus projects -- construction of a new classroom building behind the historic YMCA building, a new cafeteria and others -- along with the start of the Southeastern Conference's own television network and a football schedule favoring MSU victories this year, there is a lot of excitement about the university and its football program, Stricklin said.
"The on-campus experience at MSU, that's what we can sell," Stricklin said. "That's what touches everybody. One of the things we take seriously at athletics is we want to be the front porch of the university and attract as many people -- students, alumni and others -- as possible. The quality (of the renovations) will set the tone for what they can expect at our university. Even looking beyond our campus improvements and moving to The Mill at MSU and the new city hall, there's a lot happening in our community. It's definitely an exciting time to be here in Starkville and at MSU."
Those traveling by Davis Wade Stadium this summer have seen a flurry of activity as the start of the upcoming football season approaches. Besides additional seating, workers have installed new elevators and increased restroom and concession stand capacities. Fans will also notice infrastructure improvements Saturday, including wider concourses and additional lighting.
Workers also installed a second video board on the stadium's northern side that, when combined with the existing south end screen, provides 14,240 square feet of projection space, the most square footage of any on-campus, collegiate system in the U.S.
While the lion's share of work is complete, touch-ups will continue as the Bulldogs embark on their away schedule in September.
"With any project, you have a punch list of minor things that follow -- walls that need an extra coat of paint, trim that needs to be complete," Stricklin said. "We'll have those going on for a few weeks, but we're at the finish line now."
The excitement for both the improvements and the start of what could be another successful Bulldog football year is growing, Stricklin said. As of two weeks ago, MSU had sold another record allotment of season football tickets, and fans were continuing to snatch up remaining individual game passes.
"We did have a demand for more tickets, but the big thing was to take the opportunity to make the renovations as good as possible for everyone. The new aesthetics that make up the stadium transforms it as it sits on campus and as you approach it," he said. "We cannot wait to have the Bulldog fan base in there celebrating our accomplishments. It's neat to see this idea we've been working on for years become a reality."
Additional athletics-specific projects are in the works, including a $40 million facelift to MSU baseball's home, Polk-Dement Stadium at Dudy Noble Field. Those plans include installing a two-tiered grandstand and additional seats, while revamping the Left Field Lounge with the construction of the Left Field Lofts' 25 suites complete with bedrooms and live-in capacity.
Other projects are in the works for MSU's softball, soccer and track facilities, Stricklin said.
"As the successes of our teams grow, the demand for more improvements grows," he said. "We're simply trying to create a great experience for the people who love MSU."
The Bulldogs open the season 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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