"It's an exciting time," said Mullen of the prospect of playing to 61,000-plus folk by the 2014 season. Not that his first three Mississippi State seasons were lacking for excitement, as 16-straight sellouts have proven. But playing in a bigger and better Dog house? Now that is exciting.
"When we got here one of the first things we tried to do was tell our fan base and say if you sell out the stadium we can build a winning program. But we need to do that first," Mullen said. "And they responded by selling-out."
Not simply selling out but begging for more access to DWS. Last year produced the first real waiting list for season tickets at State and demand keeps increasing, as does the market for suites and club level access. Mississippi State's response is adding a net of 6,255 seats in time for the 2014 home opener including more suites, more clubs, and even some new-style premium areas.
Building bigger is nothing new in the Southeastern Conference or college football in general these days. Mullen sees a difference in Mississippi State's case. This is not just for show but so the program can go forward.
"A lot of people are adding facilities and expanding on stadiums because they just want to waste money I guess or spend money, or they think it's an arms race," Mullen said. "We're doing it because we have a need. Our fans have really shown that we have a need for more seating in the stadium. So we're able to hopefully create one of the great stadiums in the Southeastern Conference."
As the latest batch of architectural sketches released publicly today prove, the additions and renovations will produce a pretty great facility when finished. As a motivating force, not to mention his experiences with Notre Dame, Florida, and Utah and other professional stops along the career, Mullen has seen many facilities inside-out. So yes, he had some ideas about the end-product.
"Obviously, architecturally I don't get into all of it!" Mullen said. But he had some definite desires, such as bowling-in one end of the stadium. And adding a second, matching videoboard/scoreboard to balance the 2008 original. "That stuff is exciting and can keep the excitement we have and that edge. So I've been involved, but not as much as our football facility where we will do everything day-to-day in."
Mullen meant the $25 million Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex due for completion this winter. Stricklin repeated today how he hopes to hand Mullen keys to the new office when the 2012 Bulldogs return from their third-straight bowl trip.
Adding seats for fans, building new facilities for the team, and all the effort and expense involved remind just how serious an investment Mississippi State officials and Bulldog fans are making in their program. Stricklin said the expansion, mostly funded by 30-year bonds, can be paid for over the long haul out of the extra revenue a larger and updated venue can provide. Fortunately the Football Complex is paid for entirely by private funding.
Still this is a lot of money Mississippi State is staking on future success. Mullen's response? "I love the pressure. You know, hopefully we have a SEC Championship by the time we move into that stadium and it's created even more excitement for our fan base."
"But I put pressure on myself every year to win. I know we have to keep pressure on ourselves to put a great product on the field and a great team the people of Mississippi can be proud of. And pressure on our fan base to step up their even more and create an even more exciting environment."
Even if it means playing games in a working zone. For that matter Stricklin says some preliminary work will begin immediately and not even await the end of the 2012 home schedule. State will delay that long before tearing out the existing north end zone bleachers or permanently blocking off traffic.
At least the Bulldogs themselves will be wearing their own version of hard hats. "So it will be interesting to see how it plays out for us," Mullen said. "We'll see how that '13 year goes with all the construction going around."