Always willing to interact with fans and keep the channels open between the athletics department and the fans, Scott Stricklin took to a live chat on HailState.com Friday, to field questions from fans that would range from Adidas complaints to north end zone expansion questions. Among the many things Stricklin covered, one was of particular interest to a lot of people who follow MSU sports: planning for improvements at Dudy Noble Field.
Long before MSU made its magical national championship series run this past June, the needed improvements at Dudy Noble Field have been in discussion among State fans. Everyone, it seems, is passionate about what they feel needs to be included, but up until Friday, we really had not heard much at all from anyone in the athletics department as to what Dudy Noble's future might hold. Then, during his live chat Friday, Scott handled a question about the future of DNF as follows:
We have begun preliminary planning for the future of DNF. Don't know when we will be far enough along to share renderings, but we have some priorities that will shape those conversations. And, at some point, we will engage fans to get their thoughts before we get too far down the road.
Priorities include improving aesthetics, maintaining ability to have large crowds (14,000-plus) without making the place swallow up moderate-sized crowds (say 5,000 or so), adding restrooms and concessions, enhancing and maintaining the Left Field Lounge and providing new premium seat opportunities. And, of course, we always look for ways to enhance the areas that directly impact our players, such as locker rooms.
Although sure, Scott's answer wasn't terribly specific, it does let us know that DNF is on the minds of those in the AD's office. Even though the comments seem to indicate that improvements may be behind the schedule expected of many State fans, it's important to remember a few things:
- State is currently in the throws of a $78 million expansion of Davis Wade Stadium. Even the biggest college athletics programs would be hard pressed to carry on another major construction project while a project the magnitude of Davis Wade's improvements is going on. Those that somehow thought there would be an announcement of improvements coming soon after this past season are living a bit too much in the clouds.
- Dudy Noble's improvements will be under a microscope, and need to be well thought out. The improvements will be under a microscope for a good reason -- I mean we are talking about the cathedral of college baseball. Even though improvements could stand to start now, things aren't dire, so it's better to get a clear, consise plan for how to go forward, and make sure that the funding is there to make sure everything that's needed is included when improvements do come.
- Tennis and softball have major improvements coming as well. People are going to complain because they're not major sports, but tennis and softball are in dire need of facility improvements, and both are very important programs. It doesn't take much to recognize that both are currently being led by coaches who can maintain a high level of success, so it's important that those programs get the long-overdue facility upgrades that they need. Just take a look at these mock-ups of what's coming for the combined complex, and tell me that's not going to be nice. It is, and it's also more than likely coming ahead of anything at baseball, so patience is needed.
Whether Scott's update on Friday was satisfactory to you or not, it's important to note that improvements are coming, and MSU fans will have the opportunity to voice their input on those improvements as the process moves into the later stages of planning and development. Here's a few other key points I took away from his response:
- The ability of hosting 14k crowds while not dwarfing 5k crowds. This, to me, is a huge priority. It would be a shame to see State build out permanent seating to where a midweek or smaller weekend crowd would look sparse in a brand new stadium. Reading too much into this, I'd dare to say we're going to see improvements made that allow for seating to be brought in for bigger weekends, while maintaining a nice size but smaller permanent infrastructure that doesn't swallow whole midweek crowds.
- Restrooms and concessions. The department could make just these upgrades by themselves and things would be significantly better. These are a given in any improvements that are coming, but still, nice to know that the department knows the issue is there, and is a big one.
- New premium seating opportunities. This may be the most intriguing improvement listed. New premium seating opportunities would almost completely require a huge overhaul of the stadium's structure, but I'm no architect, so there may be some creative ways around it. What I'd love to see is something along the lines of what LSU has at the new Box. I've personally had a chance to sit in this club level style seating called the Champions Club, and I can tell you that it's a wonderful feature. Whether State decides to go that way or maybe the way that Ole Miss went with club level up higher, it will be a nice added feature to DNF.
- Lastly, it isn't detailed, but I'm hoping that part of "maintaining Left Field Lounge" is finding a way to also provide a better experience for those in the 20-35 demographic that want to walk up and get the LFL experience without knowing someone with a trailer. Currently there's only a very small area near the right field foul pole that allows for a general admissioner to pull up his own lawn chair and cooler and enjoy the game, so I hope that's a big consideration for the planning process. Don't underestimate the size of that demographic either, because I could guarantee that recent alumni + current students would get a good bit of use out of an area like that.
Overall, the biggest thing I took out of Scott's statement is that the wheels are in motion, and that we the fans will get to voice our opinions in the matter. It will be exciting to see what comes of all of this as the process begins to unfold in the upcoming months.