By JOEL COLEMAN
Change is on the horizon at Mississippi State.
From the new Dudy Noble Field to upgrades of Humphrey Coliseum, MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin addressed the upcoming improvements around campus on Monday in his visit with the Starkville Rotary Club.
Much of Stricklin’s time was focused on the details surrounding the new Dudy Noble, a project that MSU’s leader hopes to kick into gear around next year at this time.
“That continues to be high on our priority list,” Stricklin said. “The idea is to start full bore on that next June.”
While Stricklin admits the phasing for MSU’s new baseball park is based around a bit of guesswork until a contractor is on board, he says he believes construction should carry through the 2018 season with enough in place for the Bulldogs to continue playing on their home field throughout the process.
When it’s complete, the estimated $55 million project is expected to be one of the premier college baseball facilities in the country, complete with long-held MSU traditions like the Left Field Lounge.
Stricklin gave assurances on Monday that, though different, the Left Field Lounge will still very much be a part of MSU baseball’s unique footprint.
“We are going to build permanently in-place units,” Stricklin said. “They’re not going to be concrete boxes. We’re going to use a lot of like-materials to what we currently have out there. We’re going to give people options on how they want to design their particular area and their particular spot as far as decorating it and dressing it out, whether it’s the Tiki Hut or whatever. All that stuff will be available to do whatever you want to do.”
Stricklin said he completely understands long-time Loungers’ concerns, but thinks they’ll be proud with the finished product once it comes about.
“I think we can continue to have what makes it special,” Stricklin said. “The Lounge has evolved a lot from when people rolled up there in the back of a pickup truck. It’s evolved to where it is now and it has only gotten better. I think this is the next natural progression. It’s going to be better for everyone concerned. I really believe that. If I felt like we were doing anything that was going to diminish that all-important tradition at Mississippi State and our baseball program, we would not be doing it.”
Dudy Noble isn’t the only venue with changes coming. The Humphrey Coliseum will undergo a few adjustments as soon as this summer. First on that list is a new, permanent floor as opposed to the previous temporary one.
“Technology on the permanent floors has advanced to where we’re comfortable putting a permanent floor in and we can cover it for graduations and still do all the other events we’d normally do in the coliseum,” Stricklin said.
A new Peavey sound system is also slated to be put in Humphrey Coliseum prior to the start of the 2016-17 basketball season.
In the longterm, more changes could loom for the Hump.
“We selected a team to come in and help us do some preplanning on renovating the Coliseum,” Stricklin said. “I love so many things about the Hump, but there are some parts of it that are tired. We’d like to get some concepts and ideas as to what we can do to update that a little bit.”
Stricklin praised other improvements that have already been made to MSU’s athletic facilities. From softball’s Nusz Park, to the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre, to the MSU Golf Practice Facility in West Point, Stricklin is proud of how State continues to stay on the cutting edge.
Stricklin noted plans are in place to keep MSU moving forward with the addition of an indoor tennis facility.
“We are in the process of designing and fundraising for that,” Stricklin said. “That would need to be a donor-led project, but we’ve got some people identified that we think would be interested in helping. We don’t have a timetable. That is really, from an Olympic-sport standpoint, one of the few pieces that we don’t have. A lot of our spring sports are in a much better spot now, but an indoor tennis facility is one that is on our priority list.”