Facilities improvements update

The Ole Miss athletics facilities continue to grow and expand and improve as several projects are planned on campus. Some of them have yet to start, while others are well underway with completion sometime next year. Here's a look at most of them currently going on.

The construction, which years ago seemed to never start, now appears to have no end as far as Ole Miss athletics is concerned.

Currently several facilities are being renovated or plans for such are in the works.

Starting with the area around the football stadium there's the FedEx Academic Support Center for Ole Miss student-athletes, which is housed in the former Doc Knight Field House. Visible progress is being made on that, and plans are for it to be completed by late spring. It will house all things academic for Ole Miss student-athletes and will allow those offices and workers currently housed in the former athletics dorm (Kinard Hall or Vaught Hall, depending on your age) to move to the new FedEx Center.

Doc Knight Field House is attached to the Starnes Athletics Center and has been since the renovations and expansion of that facility in 1991-92. The only portion of Doc Knight not under current renovation is the training room, exactly where it has been located for several decades and where team after team of Ole Miss athletes have had treatment. Football has the new training room in the IPF, however.

The weight room and other areas, which are located in the Starnes Center portion of the building, are not under renovation. All teams at Ole Miss except track and football use the Starnes Center weight room for their workouts. Track and Football use the weight room in the IPF.

Just across the parking lot there is a lot of work going on gutting the old physical plant buildings. When completed sometime later next year, many of the athletics administrative offices will be there, including the AD's office, the UMAA Foundations offices, athletics media relations, olemisssports.TV and all teleproductions. The athletics ticket office may move into that area from Tad Smith Coliseum as well.

Only the one brick building that is closest to Coulter Hall (chemistry) won't be an athletics building. It will belong in some form to academics. Also all of the sheds and coverage at the buildings nearest the football stadium have been torn down.

Bottom line: This football season will be quite a maze in that area for fans to attend games. We'll update you in August on what you need to do to enter the stadium, where to walk, etc.

One positive note as far as gates on the east side, which have always been a problem because of the lack thereof, three new gates have been added to the east side of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Hopefully this will allow the jamup that always occurs at the big gate entering the north end of the east side to be less crowded. Fans on the east side are encouraged to use the new gates.

At the baseball stadium, work is supposed to begin this week or next on the new coaches offices and also the outfield terrace areas. The coaches offices will be located near the ticket office at the front of the stadium and will likely take up part of the parking lot that is there now.

The outfield areas will grow in this manner: Two new rows of terracing will be added to the bottom of the left field terrace, and that terrace will be doubled in size toward center field.

In right field where a lot of students sit, two more rows will also be added to the existing terracing. Down farther in right field will be one new row of terracing close to the tennis court that is nearest the right field foul pole. Between the two terrace areas and the two sets of tennis courts will be some type of pavilion area that may have some grills and other amenities for utilization during games. But those plans are not quite as certain yet. Additional restrooms and concessions are also in the plans.

Of course, phase II of the baseball expansion, with club seats behind and above the existing stadium structure where the roof meets the top rows of seats, won't begin until next summer. The top three rows of the current facility will be removed to help make room, and the actual new structure for club seating complete with elevator will actually be built behind and connected to the stadium.

Additional box seats will be built down the first and third base lines, and another section of actual stadium is supposed to be added on each end of the current grandstands to raise capacity in actual seats to around 6,000 in the stadium structure itself. Counting the outfield areas, there should be actual seating for as many as 9,000 fans.

Plans are underway for an expansion and renovation of the tennis center to provide the growth of those two programs. Improved locker rooms, additional offices, and more seating are among the plans for tennis in the next year or two.

At the coliseum, plans are underway for renovation of the underneath area that is so badly needed. There is a chance some of that may happen before the upcoming season, but it is more likely that a full renovation and expansion of those areas will come after the 2006-07 season.

As far as a new practice facility for the two basketball teams, that is still in the works and appears that it will happen. But funding is now being studied for that project as well as what design best suits the needs of Ole Miss men's and women's basketball.

The soccer stadium will have a new scoreboard for this upcoming season complete with a message center.

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