Before we talk at all about last night's Dudy Noble Field Renovation/Expansion talks and what came of it, I'd like to quickly applaud Scott Stricklin and his staff for this idea. It would be easy for him and the athletics department to shield themselves off from public input, but they've welcomed public input wholeheartedly with these meetings. That's important to a lot of people, because the renovation of DNF means a lot to a lot of people. A majority of the MSU fanbase has been following the Diamond Dawgs for decades, so they are highly invested in the program, the stadium, and the atmosphere that so many have worked so hard to make the best in college baseball.
Although I was not present at tonight's meeting, I -- along with what I suspect was a large portion of the people keeping up with tonight's meeting -- kept up with the discussions via various twitter accounts. One of the most consistent accounts providing updates was that of GenesPage.com's David Murray (@DawgsBitMag). Here are just a few of many updates via David:
"Improve, renovate, update, start over, there’s nothing off the table." -- Scott— David H Murray (@DawgsBiteMag) October 14, 2013
Scott "Mississippi State deserves to have the very best facility in the country. Not kinda good, not up there with the best. The very best."— David H Murray (@DawgsBiteMag) October 14, 2013
He asked "is there anyone here who wants to leave bleachers in their current form" at which the whole room chuckles.— David H Murray (@DawgsBiteMag) October 14, 2013
Cohen makes a great follow-up point; how on TV 3,700 fans on Tuesday looks empty, but 1,900 at Vandy's stadium looks full. He's right.— David H Murray (@DawgsBiteMag) October 14, 2013
'Flexibility' is one word for the night, related to small midweek crowds against need for record crowds' space too.— David H Murray (@DawgsBiteMag) October 15, 2013
One suggested take out the bleachers and put in a beer garden, which would improve student participation...— David H Murray (@DawgsBiteMag) October 15, 2013
a suggestion that slabs be installed, uniform size, for rigs to be parked on. Hmmmm...— David H Murray (@DawgsBiteMag) October 15, 2013
One asks a timeframe for the project. Scott "We don't have enough information, depends on the scope and the scale."— David H Murray (@DawgsBiteMag) October 15, 2013
Scott reminds that the DWS project started planning two years before breaking ground.— David H Murray (@DawgsBiteMag) October 15, 2013
And again, those were just a few of many. There was also a TON of griping about any potential changes to the Left Field Lounge. Overall though, from following David's account it seemed that a few major points were established:
- They're not in a rush with this -- Stricklin reminds the crowd that Davis Wade planning started two years before the expansion started. Could we see that timeframe here? By sheer size, you'd think a smaller time frame, but it depends on the schedule of the parties involved, how fundraising is going, etc...
- MSU is bringing in the big boys on this -- I was fortunate enough to be in the crowd at last spring's commencement to hear Janet Marie Smith speak. Janet, for those of you who don't know, is an MSU architecture alumnae, and was one of the primary people responsible for the renovations at Camden Yards years ago. People STILL talk about how that design set the trend for today's urban setting/classic ballparks. She's a highly sought after commodity (currently working on a $200 million renovation at Dodger Stadium), so to have her involved with this even in the slightest is big. That shows you that this means a lot to the school.
- Everything is on the table -- Stricklin said it himself: nothing is off the table when it comes to the possibilities of how to renovate Dudy Noble. That ranges from minimal structural reconfiguration to a full blown demolition and rebuilding. Most of that will obviously depend on fundraising and the feasibility study results, but still, it's nice to know that we're not going into this with a constricted scope of vision.
At the time that I'm putting together this post, there isn't an "official transcript." If one pops up then I'll either add it here or add it in a separate post, but for the most part I bet you can imagine what all was discussed. Now, let's hit up the #DNF hashtag (which was the hastag the school asked people to use last night to join the discussion) to see a few other highlights from the discussion:
Would like to see an open concourse so you can get concessions, use restroom or do a lap with your restless child & still see the game. #DNF— Ghost of Hank Flick (@mandwnation) October 14, 2013
Old school manual scoreboard smartly combined with ribbon board for stats. Done right, classic look while also moving forward. #DNF— Patrick Wiggins (@iPat09) October 14, 2013
Blow it up. Start over. #DNF— Rob Hataway (@vhdawg) October 15, 2013
Speaker suggests club areas that are both inside and outside like Davis Wade Stadium #Dnf— MSU Baseball (@HailStateBB) October 15, 2013
Let me be "that guy on Twitter" and say that the inclusion of these tweets doesn't mean I concur with all of them; it's just to show you a sample of the changes that were suggested by some following via Twitter last night. That is, except for that last one. I can't agree with Joe more: it's important to remember that what has made Dudy Noble so special over the years is the fans in it, not the concrete and steel that have held all those fans over the years. If the best plan available leads to a renovation, then that's great. But I think Joe makes a good point that if things lead to a complete demolition and rebuild, then Dudy Noble will still be the same "Carnegie Hall of College Baseball" that we all love. Except maybe a LOT nicer.
There's a lot of great ideas in there I think, even if I don't necessarily agree with all of them. You can also easily tell how much people in the MSU family care about this, and care about Dudy Noble and the rejuvenation of not only the program, but the facilities that house it and our fanbase on spring weekends as well. To wrap up, I just wanted to touch on a few things that I think should happen as a part of the renovations. I will say that these are fluid with me, but at this current time these are the things that I would like to see as a part of the renovation:
- SPACE. I can't stress enough that more space is needed in and around the concessions area. On big weekends, you have to squeeze through lines for snow cones, baseball cards, and hot dogs just to get to the grandstands. Got to find a way to make it more roomy down below.
- Bathrooms and Concessions: Have to have big time updates on these. As someone who has painted those bathroom floors before a season before, I can say that there are enough coats of paint on the floor. It's time for a new everything in there. Same with concessions
- Reduce angle severity. The common theme with new college ballparks today is that they mimick minor league parks in many ways. One of those ways is a reduced seating angle: that is the angle of the seating areas from the back of the park to home plate. As it stands currently, the steepness of Dudy Noble is a concern, primarily for the reason that it restricts the amount of seating that you can get in a certain space. By reducing the severity of the seating angle as it relates to the playing surface, MSU could increase capacity, and provide a more aesthetic and game viewing-experience for fans. Now, I'm far from a structural engineer, so I have no clue if this is a feat that can be accomplished working with the existing concrete structure of Dudy Noble. I'd be willing to guess that a modification that large would escalate costs up near the range where you just start talking complete demolition and rebuild, though. Again, I have no idea.
- More spacious walking areas between upper and lower seating. Seriously, during a big game it's all you can do to make it from one end of the grandstands to the other in a timely manner (an inning).
Left Field Bleachers
- REMOVE. Seriously, take those things and throw them somewhere in the woods just off the Highway 12 and Highway 82 interchange. In the area that currently holds the bleachers, I would do what I could to increase the elevation there, and then create some sort of combination plaza area / club level seating / grandstand seating. I envision continuing the box seating all the way down, then have the plaza area, and then maybe an elevated indoor/outdoor club level combination area above that. One of the points I noticed on Twitter that came up was the opportunity to be flexible in the renovation. State wants to be able to hold 3,200 on a Wednesday night and it not dwarf the crowd in a cavernous stadium, and to also be able to hold 14,000 for a regional. I think with this left field former bleacher area, there is an opportunity to provide room for temporary bleachers to be brought in for big weekends. Again, this is ground level thought here. Not much attention bouncing around in my head here.
Right Field Bleachers
- Party deck. Like the first, I take these bleachers and toss them in Chadwick Lake. I'd then push out the fence all around the right field area, and I'd create some sort of area that featured berms for tailgate chair seating, and a party deck area, possibly tiered. The way things are currently structured, a young alumni or just three friends in town for a game that want to sit in the outfield basically have one hill and a small corner of a deck to chose from. Providing a larger space for those who want this type of experience but don't have Left Field Lounge access would be critical, in my opinion. Again, lots of rudimentary thought here, but I think that would really be a big addition.
Left Field (Left Field Lounge)
- Frankly on this, I'm still reserving judgement on what to do. I can see things staying exactly the same, and I can see the need for SOME change. I can see increasing prices for reserved spots, and I can see leaving things the way they are. Judging just from what I saw on twitter tonight, I think this is going to be a big arguing point from here forward, and really no matter what they decide to do. Sometimes I think it'd be nice for them to just go out there and construct permanent structures that mimick the trailers that occupy the space now, but I know that does completely change things for some that have called Left Field Lounge home for decades. This spot is wide open to me at this point, with a lean towards keeping it the same with tighter preseason policing of the structural, ah, "integrity" of the trailers.
Right Field (Left Field Lounge + Student Area)
- I'll be lazy and just say SEE: Right Field Bleachers notes just above. This go hand in hand. I would add here that I think they need to take the containment fence around the stadium both in right field and behind the right field bleachers and push it WAY out to provide more space to move around.
I have to say that coming in, I was still well on the fence. However, when you think more about what is needed at Dudy Noble and what is possible, you may be looking at the best option being to completely demolish and rebuild. This seems more and more like a strong candidate for the best available option going foward, of course pending costs and available funding.
So, that's a lot to take in, obviously. And don't forget, there's another meeting tonight in Jackson for metro area fans to voice their opinions and ideas for the renovation. If you're around, make sure you get by there and let them know what you think. It's important that we get the school all the thoughts, ideas, brainstorms, brainfarts, etc., that we can come up with so that they immerse themselves in the possibilities, and come out with a plan that incorporates the best of everything in a new/new-ish park that will serve the Mississippi State Baseball Program for years (and hopefully championships) to come.
Also, make sure you leave us your thoughts in the comments on what you want to see with Dudy Noble Field renovations.