August 10, 2013 6:48:41 PM
William Browning - [email protected]
BY WILLIAM BROWNING
Chip Hoover will take his infant son to a Mississippi State University home football game for the first time this season.
Hoover is a Greenville native. His father went to Mississippi State. He went to Mississippi State. It's fair to say his son, in 17 years or so, may also go to Mississippi State.
That said, Bulldog football games in Starkville are a tradition for their family.
"We've gone for as long as I can remember," Hoover, who lives in Birmingham, said last week.
But the Davis Wade Stadium the youngest Hoover will grow up visiting won't look like the one his grandfather remembers. The stadium is in the midst of a major expansion.
One year ago this month, a $75 million construction contract was awarded to Harrell Contracting Group of Jackson following a sealed bid process.
Bobby Tomlinson, associate athletic director of facility management and construction, spent some time last week talking about the expansion's progress.
Because the 2012 season was just getting underway when the contract was signed, only minor infrastructure work could be done until November 2012, when the season ended. At that point, things sped up. Progress has been steady.
"We're on schedule," Tomlinson said Thursday. "In fact, they are putting the restroom stalls in right now as we speak."
The restrooms are part of the west side renovation at Davis Wade. That part of the expansion will be ready for this season's home opener against Alcorn State University on Sept. 7.
In addition to the bathrooms, the university has widened and leveled the concourse along the west side's lower level. Four elevators have been added. The concessions offered in the area will go from three to six. The graphics at the concessions were being put in place last week, too.
The biggest addition to the stadium, which is taking place along the north end of Davis Wade, will be completed in time for the Bulldog's home game against the University of Southern Mississippi to open the 2014 season -- the stadium's 100th season. Davis Wade Stadium is the second-oldest in Division I football -- Atlanta's Bobby Dodd Stadium, where Georgia Tech plays, is the oldest.
The north end zone expansion will create roughly 8,800 seats, including 7,000 grandstand seats, 1,155 Scoreboard Club seats and 230 loge seats. The stadium's capacity will go from 55,082 to 61,337.
Also in time for the 2014 season, an additional 22 luxury boxes are being added to the stadium, for a total of 72.
Mike Richey, senior associate athletic director, said the new boxes have been sold. Four had a price tag of $40,000, while 18 were at $30,000, according to Richey.
Tomlinson said because work on the north end will be ongoing through 2013, fans will "have some obstacles for this season."
No gates along the north end of the stadium will be open this season. To mitigate that inconvenience, the university plans on opening all of the stadium's other gates three hours before kickoff. In the past, gates have opened two hours prior to game time.
Parking will not be affected.
Tomlinson, who has spent 23 seasons working for Mississippi State University, said this expansion is the "biggest thing we have been able to do since I've been here.
"I can't wait to get our fans in here," he said. "I don't think you can appreciate it unless you've seen what it has been in the past."
Chip Hoover has certainly seen the stadium in the past.
One thing the 31-year-old CPA has always liked about the stadium is what he called its "homey feel." Other universities, he said, have stadiums that have a professional game atmosphere. Hoover values the "comfortable, college-feel" at Davis Wade.
"That is something I never wanted to lose," he said. "It's a good place to watch a game. So I like what they've done with this expansion in that they've baby-stepped the way up."
Hoover, whose tickets have always been on the west side of Davis Wade, said the stadium's growth adds to the buzz for the upcoming season. Mississippi State is sitting on s streak of 23 consecutive home sellouts. If the team goes to a bowl game this season it will mark the first time in 114 years of football that the Bulldogs have played in four consecutive bowl games.
"It's an exciting time for the football team," he said. "And it's an exciting time to be a fan."
William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.