August 12, 2014 8:48:21 PM
STARKVILLE -- Since its first major renovation in 1987, Mississippi State's Dudy Noble Field set the standard in college baseball.
On Tuesday, that standard was shattered.
In an ambitious plan that would place its facility in rarified air among college baseball facilities, MSU announced a $40 million overhaul of Polk-Dement Stadium at Dudy Noble Field on Tuesday afternoon that features a two-tiered grandstand, additional seats, a completely revamped Left Field Lounge and the introduction of the Left Field Lofts, 25 suites complete with bedrooms and live-in capability.
"Mississippi State deserves the best baseball facility in the country," said MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin. "In 1987, MSU had the vision to build a premier on-campus baseball facility before anyone else. Now, 30 years later, it was time.
"This will provide our fans, players and staff the best ballpark in the nation."
The design team of Wier Boerner Allin Architecture, of Jackson, and renowned baseball stadium experts Populous, in consultation with MSU alum Janet Marie Smith, produced the proposed Dudy Noble Field Master Plan concept. Populous has designed 20 of Major League Baseball's 30 current stadiums.
In a multi-faceted release that featured pictures, video and a press release timed for 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, MSU, along with its architectural and design partners, changed the game in regard college baseball facilities.
"So much creativity has gone into it," said MSU head baseball coach John Cohen, who led the Bulldogs to the College World Series Championship Series in 2013. "There are things that exist within this concept that simply don't exist within college baseball."
And the list of groundbreaking concepts is long. The renovated stadium, which will include a grandstand that will be completely rebuilt from the ground up, removes bleacher seating entirely and adds grandstand seats stretching half the distance of each outfield foul line, also addresses the long-held tradition of MSU's Left Field Lounge, which will be preserved in the redesign with some modernization.
"When we started talking about the Left Field Lounge, we knew we better not mess this up," said Stricklin. "We had to ask ourselves how to take all the things that make the Left Field Lounge special and improve it without losing that uniqueness. We want every one of those spots to be unique."
Currently, there are 86 rigs with designated spots in the Left Field Lounge, and the rendering made available on Tuesday featured 86 spots for outfield tailgating. The rigs will be gone, replaced by modernized spaces that will be completely adaptable and customizable to the lease-holder, as Strickilin added, "If they want chairbacks in there, we'll put chairbacks. If they want a platform where they can put their own chairs, we can do that, too."
Additional features include new entrance plazas, added restrooms, an elevated concourse that encircles the playing field and allows a constant view of the game action, a kids' play area, berm seating, upgraded lighting, HD video board, digital ribbon signage, team areas and dramatically improved aesthetics.
'We will be aggressive'
The timetable for the project is based on the Bulldog Club reaching its $20 million private fundraising goal. Fundraising efforts have already begun.
"We will be aggressive on the fundraising side," said Stricklin. "Our Bulldog Club has already started putting together a plan to get out there. We think the plan sells itself."
Several premium seating opportunities will be available. The new stadium will feature approximately 50 skyboxes, but Stricklin noted that number could rise if demand exists. Half of those skyboxes will stand behind the Left Field Lounge in a structure known as the Left Field Lofts, which will feature a kitchen and bedrooms, and will be available year-round.
The Left Field Lofts will be the first structure of its kind in college baseball.
"That was actually Scott (Sricklin) and John's (Cohen) idea," said architect Jamie Wier. "They began throwing out the idea of a building that featured seating and housing, which exists in some major league ballparks. And Scott asked 'Why can't we do something like this?'
"So we said 'You can.' "
While capacity will increase at a facility that owns the top 10 national on-campus attendance records, exact numbers weren't made available on Tuesday. Instead, Stricklin said "We will continue to be able to draw the largest crowds in the country."
With no timetable set on the renovation, Stricklin was asked about opting for a complete rebuild rather than a facelift.
"We thought about that, and really, if we only wanted something for five years or so, just renovating what we have now would have been sufficient," said Stricklin. "But we wanted to go bigger than that."
Cohen, meanwhile, explained the mindset behind the jaw-dropping renderings.
"Mississippi State baseball is just different," said Cohen. "And we will continue to be different. Anyone who is a part of it knows what that means."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brandon Walker on Twitter @BWonStateBeat