August 4, 2014 11:19:10 AM
STARKVILLE -- Piece by piece, brick by brick, Mississippi State's football future is coming together.
Jay Hughes is watching the whole spectacle.
Hughes, a senior safety from Hattiesburg, has been an interested spectator throughout the last year as MSU's expansion of Davis Wade Stadium has taken shape. Now that the expansion is less than a month from being unveiled when MSU plays host to Southern Miss on Aug. 30, Hughes can't hide his excitement.
"I ride by there every day just to look at it," said Hughes, who missed nearly the entire 2013 season after an Achilles' tendon injury in the first quarter of the season opener. "It looks like a castle. To know we're going to get to play there ... It's amazing."
Scheduled to be completed in the weeks before the season opener, MSU's latest expansion effort will feature the addition of more than 6,000 seats, taking capacity from 55,000 to 61,337. Centered around the bowling in of the stadium's north end zone, the expansion will result in 7,076 seats in the general end zone seating bowl. Additionally, 1,170 new scoreboard club level seats, 22 state level suites, and 236 state level loge seats have been added. All three levels of seating are sold out for this season.
Preliminary groundwork began in August 2012. The construction started immediately following the 2012 season.
The contract for the project was awarded to the Harrell Contracting Group, of Jackson. Harrell won the construction project in a university sealed bid process.
"It's spectacular, and our fans are going to be wowed when they get in there and see it," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "We've done a pretty good job of having home-field advantage the last couple of years. Hopefully this only increases that."
The Bulldogs are 21-14 at home under Mullen, and were 5-2 a year ago.
Hughes isn't the only Bulldog raving about the expansion. Junior running back Josh Robinson, projected to be MSU's starter at tailback, echoed Hughes' sentiments.
"Words can't describe it," Robinson said. "Just to see maroon nation expanding like this, it's unbelievable. To see something like this that wasn't here before, it's fun to be part of it."
The anticipation about opening a remodeled Davis Wade Stadium, which will include a new north end zone jumbotron, adds to the expectations surrounding MSU's season. With a Southeastern Conference-best 18 starters back, including junior quarterback Dak Prescott, the Bulldogs are a trendy pick by many to make noise in the SEC's Western Division. They figure to make a lot of noise in their remodeled digs.
"I'm ready to get inside there and hear those cowbells," said senior WR Jameon Lewis, a third-team preseason All-SEC selection. "This is my last year. To see this, it makes me feel like I've been part of something special.
"Since I've been here, this feels like a new program, top to bottom. If we have the year we think we can have, it's going to be special."
The renovations are part of MSU's first major stadium expansion since 2001. That's when the stadium's east side upper deck, which seats 7,000, was added.
The attendance record at MSU, which likely will fall against USM, is 58,103, set in November 2009 against Alabama. All of MSU's 10 biggest crowds -- and 19 of the top 20 -- have come under Mullen's watch, a trend the sixth-year coach wants to continue.
"I'm going to be really excited when it's full," Mullen said. "That's all I care about. When we fill the stadium with fans and they stay for the whole game and give us that homefield advantage, that is really important."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brandon Walker on Twitter @BWonStateBeat.
1. Howland leads strong group of new coaches in SEC COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Holmes will look to add depth for MSU women COLLEGE SPORTS