Mississippi State Athletics

Mississippi State baseball stadium project overview

This article is the first of a seven-part series of articles about the new Mississippi State baseball stadium (Polk-DeMent Stadium/Dudy Noble Field) that is being built over a two-year period, 2018-2019. This is an overview of the stadium project. The remaining parts will be about the Lofts, the Backstop, the Omaha Club/Loge, the Diamond Suites, the Grandstand Chairback Seats and the Left Field Lounge.

Gene's Page sat down with two of the men most familiar with this project, Mississippi State Athletic Director John Cohen and Mississippi State Senior Associate Athletic Director of Development Bo Hemphill.

Cohen explained how the new stadium project came about.

"(When I was the baseball coach at Mississippi State) I never campaigned and never asked for an entirely new athletic facility," said Cohen. "(Former MSU athletic director) Scott (Stricklin) and I never even talked about that. What he and I totally agreed on though was that we had to make our outfield area safer.

"Then Scott came to me and said we are going to do the entire facility as a project. He said that we are going to modernize the facility for our fans. He said it not only will help our fans but help our recruiting. He said that we are going to build the best baseball facility in total in the entire country. This was his vision, and Scott has great vision. I bought into that 100% because I knew it would be tremendous for Mississippi State.

"I really appreciate the fact that Scott said that we needed to do something. And I think it is the right thing to do."

Cohen understood the need for a new stadium even more once he became the athletic director and spent time in the grandstand area of the stadium during an actual game, something that he had never done while a coach.

"I walked into our concourse this weekend and saw how crowded it was," said Cohen. "As a baseball coach, you never experience that. But it was crowded and not functional. You don't even know what is going on with the game when you are on the concourse."

Cohen, who has been to all of the other baseball ballparks in the Southeastern Conference, also understood, if he wants the MSU baseball program to continue to flourish in the SEC, a new stadium had to be built.

"Back in 1987 our stadium was new and innovative and really the only stadium of its kind in the Southeastern Conference," said Cohen. "Now, our facility is probably the 7th or 8th best facility in the Southeastern Conference. In the SEC West it is ranked at the bottom."

Cohen pointed out why he feels the new stadium will be considered the best in college baseball.

"Things that will make this stadium the best in the country will be the entranceways into the stadium, the recognition of the history of Mississippi State baseball in an entranceway," he said. "The luxury and premium areas of seating will be something that we have never had at Mississippi State. We will have a club level up top and down below. We will even have a club level in the outfield. We will have a platform area in right field that will honor the history of Mississippi State baseball. We will have a main entranceway in the right field area where it should be because it will lead to our best parking options. There will be three different parking gate options instead of one that we have now and it is behind the stadium.

"The restroom and concession facilities will be much better. The accessibility will be much better. You will be able to go from behind the home plate area to right, center or left field pretty quickly without changing elevation too much and you will be able to watch the game the entire time you are going from place to place in the stadium."

Because it is such a big project and is being built on the same location as the current stadium, the current stadium will have to be tore down. Due to that, the project is expected to take two years to complete.

"The stadium will be divided into two separate bowls that will have an entranceway in between," said Cohen. "Our goal is for the entire lower bowl of the stadium and the outfield areas to be completed for the 2018 season The upper level bowl and the premium seating will not be completed for the 2018 season. We will also have a makeshift pressbox for the 2018 season."

Due to the upper level of the stadium not being completed in time for the 2018 season, there will be approximately 2,500 to 3,000 less seats available than there will be for the 2019 season.

Hemphill explained how that will be handled during 2018.

"We haven't seated the stadium yet, so next year everybody will go in a group and we will seat everyone based on a couple of options that we are currently deciding on," said Hemphill. "Next year is a year where we have about 3,200 chairback seats (instead of 4,500) and we will have to work through that. It is something that has to be dealt with for one year while we are building the best baseball stadium in college baseball."

Because the stadium won't be complete until 2019, Hemphill wants people to understand that their premium seating purchases won't apply during the 2018 season.

"Nothing purchased for the new stadium starts until the 2019 season," he said.

That means if you purchased a chairback seat for the ten-year period, that ten-year period won't start until the 2019 season.

As for when fans have to pay for any of the premium seating that they have ordered, Hemphill explained that process.

"People paid a third of the purchase upfront, another third will be paid at groundbreaking which is June 19th at the latest and the final third will be paid at the start of the 2019 season," said Hemphill. "An invoice will be sent out to them."

Construction has already started on the new stadium, although on a very small scale.

"There is construction going on right now behind the right field fence," said Cohen.

Cohen doesn't expect the construction to impact the summer baseball camps or fall scrimmages too much.

"There won't be any demolition before team camps are through, so they will still have team camps," said Cohen. "And our plans are to have the fall scrimmages on Dudy Noble but a little bit later in the fall."

He does anticipate a smaller number of home games next season.

"Because there will be construction going on we have taken the approach that we are going to have to play less home games during 2018," he said.

However, he doesn't expect the construction to affect potential regional play at Dudy Noble Field.

"Hosting a regional will be a possibility next season," said Cohen.

I will continue this seven-part series Friday with an article about the left field Lofts, a project that is still on the agenda and expected to be completed by the 2019 season.

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