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Mississippi State Baseball Stadium: The Left Field Lounge

This article is the seventh 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 article is about the most unique tradition in all of college baseball and one of the most unique in all of college sports, the Left Field Lounge.

The Left Field Lounge!

Here are some facts about the new Left Field Lounge.

The cost of each lounge spot is a $2,000 annual Bulldog Club obligation. The tickets will be purchased separately from the lounge spot.

The number of people who can fit in each lounge spot will range from 12 to 16, plus standing room for each spot.

The common concourse connecting the outfield to the rest of the stadium will be somewhere between 10 and 12 feet wide. The concourse will be used for general public traffic.

The square footage of each of the lounge spots is about 160 square feet for the back row and 128 square feet for the front row. The front row will have a larger area in front of their spots to make up the difference in size.

Those are the facts, but, as every Mississippi State fans knows, the Left Field Lounge goes beyond facts.

This is what the Mississippi State Athletic Department says about the new baseball stadium's Left Field Lounge.

"Dudy Noble Field will still showcase the unique and timeless features of the previous ballpark, including the Left Field LoungeTM. The outfield 'spots' (in left field and right field) will be built permanently into place. Each of the 86 spots will be customized to retain the traditional look of the Left Field LoungeTM but with access to added amenities such as electricity, storage and a common concourse connecting the entire outfield facility to the rest of the stadium. A new restroom will also be located in the renovated outfield area."

The university and athletic department understands the significance of the Left Field Lounge to the Mississippi State baseball program and the fans that are located in the lounge.

"I understand the importance of the Left Field Lounge to our baseball program tradition," said Mississippi State Athletic Director John Cohen. "But during the summer and fall, the Left Field Lounge doesn't exist. With the new stadium the Left Field Lounge will exist year-round. This facility is going to look impressive all of the time."

Long-time lounge occupant Hobie Hobart, when told about the new stadium and the new Left Field Lounge, was a little nervous about what the new lounge would look like.

"At first I was very nervous about (having a new Left Field Lounge) because it is such a unique and original thing," said Hobart. "I had mixed feelings about it and I still do. I am excited about the new stadium, the new look, and that we will have this great complex for the Bulldogs to play in. But I was nervous about what we have created in the lounge. People like to say that the people make the Left Field Lounge and they do but the rigs also have a lot to do with it. There is a lot of uniqueness to the rigs in the lounge."

Mike Richey, the MSU Senior Associate Athletic Director in charge of the Bulldog Club and Ticket Operation, is very much involved with the new stadium. He is also one of the members of the athletic department administration who have been heavily involved with the MSU fans. He understands the nervousness that Hobart and many of the other members of the lounge are feeling. That is one of the main reasons that he and other MSU officials reached out to the folks in the lounge.

"We understand that we are asking the folks in the Left Field Lounge to make a very dramatic change to something that is very special to them," said Richey. "Due to that, the Left Field Lounge spots were designed so that we can maintain the character of Left Field as it is now because preserving the culture is very important to them and to us. To help make sure we did that we met individually with each person who has a spot. In addition to providing the opportunity to select a lounge spot from four different designs, we also are allowing some customization of each spot with the approval of the athletic department."

Hobart appreciates the effort the Mississippi State officials and the architects of the baseball stadium made by reaching out to so many folks in the lounge.

"They met with us and took questions from us," said Hobart. "They took a lot of heat in that first meeting because there were probably 90+ people with rigs who were at the meeting and maybe 95% were against what they were doing. But you have to give Mississippi State credit for reaching out and meeting with us. They even brought the architects to my rig one night and introduced me to them. We sat there and looked at it, and they asked me questions about it. So, they were very open about it. That told me that they have sincerely tried to keep what is special about the Left Field Lounge. I do applaud them for that."

There is still a part of Hobart that wishes that the rigs could remain as is but a little safer. But he understands that change is coming.

"Where we are going now is different," he said. "I understand that even though I wished they could have implemented our rigs with the new stadium where they made them safe for everybody."

Everett Kennard, another long-time Left Field Lounger as well as the long-time bus driver for Mississippi State athletics, was very skeptical about building a new lounge.

"My first reaction was one of sadness and disbelief that they would want to do away with this tradition," said Kennard. " And there were a lot of questions why.

"They did talk to me individually and I expressed my desire to keep it the way it is."

But after discussing it in detail, Kennard realized why the change was inevitable.

"I want to tell you that Scott Stricklin and John Cohen are getting a bad rap in this thing because they had nothing to do with it," said Kennard. "It came from above. And the number one place that it came from was (the Mississippi State) legal (department). Legal's answer to me was the reason they did away with the Left Field Lounge the way it is now is because Mississippi State is getting money for a seat in Dudy Noble Field that they have no control over the construction of. And if anything happens, then Mississippi State is tremendously liable for that.

"Once we figured out that there was no way to fight that issue, then the university and architects did come to us and did everything they could to get input from the people out there.

"They are trying to build it so that it is safe and somewhat retains the identify."

Kennard gives MSU AD John Cohen a lot of credit as far as trying to help the lounge maintain as much of its character as possible.

"I will say this, John Cohen, especially since he has become athletic director, has done everything that he can to make the lounge as unique as he could," he said. "He has done everything that he can to maintain the character of the lounge."

To be fair to the folks currently in the lounge, Mississippi State made sure that each of the folks who own a spot were given the first opportunity to purchase them.

Richey felt that it was the right and fair thing to do.

"We understand that the people who are in the lounge are what makes the lounge what it is," he said.

According to Bo Hemphill, the MSU Senior Associate Athletic Director of Development, "all but three of the Left Field Lounge spots were sold to the previous owners. All have been sold now.

Not only have they been sold but many of the folks who have been sitting near each other will continue that part of the tradition of the Left Field Lounge.

"We understand that many of the people in the Left Field Lounge have been sitting near each other for years," said Richey. "Because of that, we are making sure that they stay in the same general area that they are currently in. Some, however, wanted to move so we did move them to a new location."

One of those who moved from a spot on the back row by the back fence to two front row spots next to the center field wall is Kennard.

"I have two lounge spots next to each other at the end of the row on the front level beside the center field wall," said Kennard. "I like having my spots there because I have better control over who comes to my lounge spot because it is at the end of the row."

The standing room areas in front of the lower Left Field Lounge spots and behind the upper left field Lounge spots will be where people can stand and put their grills and tables. There will also be electricity and storage areas for each spot, although where the storage areas will be is still being decided.

Kennard talked about having amenities with his new lounge spots.

"There are a lot of things that I like about (the new lounge)," said Kennard. "Number 1, I like the fact that it is permanent. I also like the fact that they are going to control the spaces. As an example, the deck along the outfield fence is not going to be open to the public as a walkway. I can control who comes down to the area in front of my spot. My grill and table will go there. The public will have the concourse between the upper and lower levels to use as a walkway. I also like that we will have electricity. That is huge for us because we don't have any electricity in left field now. I had to bring in a generator for power. There will also be storage. But we are trying to work out how the storage issue will be dealt with. It might not be at your spot but you will have storage.

Hobart's lounge spot, which is called the Right Field Tiki Lounge, is technically located in the right field. He agreed with Kennard about the permanency of the new lounge spots.

"What I like the most is it is permanent. I like that because I am so tired of moving mine in and out of the stadium," said Hobart. "Once we build whatever we build we don't have to worry about taking it down every year. We won't have to pull it in, then pull it out. I think they said we can even use them for basketball season, which is pretty cool."

Richey has heard similar comments from other members of the Left Field Lounge.

"We heard from a lot of people that they were grateful that they don't have to move in and out anymore because it had gotten to be such a big chore for them to do," said Richey.

While Everett Kennard is happy he will no longer have to deal with that chore, he does have a concern about what will happen once folks settle into their lounge spots and start adding to them.

"There could be problems with the change, though," said Kennard. "This has come up in our meetings. And I have hammered on this since day one. The thing that caused us to lose left field the way it is now is because the rules that it was formed under were not enforced. So, what scares me is nothing has been said to me that somebody can't buy a tent and put it on his spot in the front row. If that is allowed, then you know the people in the spot behind him will have to go up somehow so they can see over him. They need to make and enforce the rules so every person in the Left Field Lounge spots will have a view of the field. If they don't enforce those rules, then we are going to be right back to where we are now."

According to Richey, there will be rules in place and they will be enforced.

"We will communicate with the folks in the lounge about being able to customized their spot and make it unique in a way that will give it the character that it has right now," said Richey. "And we will have a system in place to approve the things that they want to do. And we will monitor those things that they are doing so that they will not impede everybody else's experience."

Both Hobart and Kennard understand that change is coming. And they are embracing it because they want to make sure the Left Field Lounge continues to be the most unique tradition in all of college baseball.

"I am going to make lemonade out of it," said Hobart. "Like I always say, I am going to have the best rig regardless. I will make it a special place again. It may take us a couple of seasons, but we will get it done. We are going to be there for our Bulldogs."

And according to Kennard, "the beauty of all of this is we have been through change before. We have gone from dragging those things in there and everybody grabbing a spot to everybody having a certain spot. And at times, when we had change, we didn't know if the change was the right thing to do. Then, we all adjusted because the Left Field Lounge is not about a bunch of constructions, it is about the people. And the people will adjust. And I promise you that the Left Field Lounge will be as unique in the future as it has been in the past. It is just going to be unique in a different way. Nobody will be able to match it because nobody can put the fans out there that we can. We don't have to throw beer in the air.

"I am very excited to see the next chapter of the Left Field Lounge."

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