(Editor's Note: In order to give Mississippi State fans a better understanding of where various projects in terms of campus facilities stand, the Starkville Daily News sat down with athletic director Scott Stricklin to learn the latest. This story is one of a series on what Stricklin has to say.)
This week, the Southeastern Conference, considered the nation’s top conference, officially became a 14-member league with the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri.
With these newcomers, the arms race to be the best of the best has never been more highly contested.
The facilities on the Texas A&M campus speak for itself and Missouri recently announced a $72 million stadium expansion of its own. While those additions are impressive in their own right, Mississippi State student athletes will not be shortchanged with the many facility upgrades currently underway on the MSU campus.
“It is so critical that every student athlete on our campus feels like they have the facilities that help them compete at a high level,” said MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin. “Not only that, we have so many visitors and obviously every time we have the opportunity to put our best foot forward we want it to be impactful and our facilities are a big part of that.”
New turf on Scott Field
The turf on Scott Field was ripped up and the irrigation stripped away early this summer in an effort to improve the playing surface at Davis Wade Stadium.
As some of you may have noticed, the field wasn’t centered in the stadium. That has now been corrected in addition to adding a new drainage and irrigation systems.
The sidelines will also receive a facelift with brick columns, iron fencing and new hedges, all which will be in place and ready for the season opener.
“The field had been down for almost 40 years so it was just time to replace it,” said Stricklin. “The school is committed to having natural grass and the timing of it just made since to do it in conjunction with the stadium project.”
Davis Wade expansion
The bid process is underway for the $80 million expansion project with Stricklin expecting to award a bid in the coming weeks and construction to begin shortly thereafter.
“A lot of it will depend on how the contractor wants to handle it, but it is my best guess that they will start working doing the footings and the ground work," Stricklin said. "You will see fences go up and construction underway, but this will not impact us being able to host crowds at Davis Wade Stadium this fall.”
The expansion will increase the stadium’s seating capacity by 6,000 seats with club seating, improved amenities, and renovated restrooms. The entire projected to be completed for the start of the 2014 season.
The Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex
One of the more impressive structures on the MSU campus will without question be the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex.
The 80,000 square foot facility will be the new home for the football program complete with a new weight room, locker room, training room and coaches’ offices.
“Every time I walk in there, I’m just blown away by the size of it and just how impressive it is going to be when it is all said and done,” Stricklin said. “It is going to be a huge asset to our whole department and obviously football specifically. It is going to be highly functional and a real showpiece. It is going to really change the face of our program.”
Additionally, the new complex will benefit other programs due to the space no longer used by the football program.
“We have a space crunch and an office crunch as our staff continues to grow," Stricklin said. "This is going to help in that area. In the space vacated by the football team in the Shira Complex, we are going to be able to help some of our other programs like track and tennis with some extra space for their student athletes.”
MSU Track and Field
The Bulldogs are pleased with the recent addition of a world class track facility and will now move to renovate the grandstand and coaches’ offices.
“We’ve actually got funding earmarked for that,” Stricklin said. “We’ve had some donors take an interest in our track program and been very generous. Now we are just making sure how we need to do it and how it needs to look.”
Stricklin would like to see this project move forward within the next year.
Since John Cohen arrived on the Mississippi State campus as coach, he’s been researching and planning for changes to the baseball facility.
While the project doesn’t have a definite timeline, it is certainly on Stricklin’s mind.
“We are still in the idea phase of it," Stricklin said. "This is the fun part when we get to brainstorm, be creative and think outside the box a little bit. With football, we needed new seats. In baseball, I don’t know that we need additional seats, but we need to continue to upgrade the fan experience, keep things up to date and freshen up the look of Dudy Noble a little bit.”
The athletic department is in the planning stages for a dual-use facility to improve both the MSU softball and tennis facilities.
“We are still fine-tuning designs and we don’t have the funding in place for that so we looking at a plan for that,” said Stricklin.
The thought behind the project would be to improve the grand stand areas, create a plaza between the two facilities, and ultimately construct an indoor tennis facility.
Mississippi State currently has over $110 million in projects in the works with several others in the development stage. Considering the recent completion of the Mize Pavilion, home to MSU basketball, there is a feel Stricklin is on target with providing MSU student-athletes with the tools they need in order to compete in the most competitive league in the NCAA.