The first day Scott Stricklin took the job as athletic director, he said Mississippi State needed to dream big.
He’s now putting his words into something concrete, or maybe brick, but definitely something solid.
“More than anything else, it’s important to have a plan. We’re in the stages of working to put that plan together,” Stricklin said in an exclusive interview with the Starkville Daily News Tuesday. “I hope when we’re done with the plan we can then figure out what the first
steps are to start making that vision a reality."
The simple problem Stricklin and Mississippi State officials have is they’d like to sell more football season tickets that would obviously generate more revenue, but they just don’t have anywhere to put those
“Our goals are to come up with a stadium master plan that whenever the need arises to expand the seats, we know where they’re going to go,” Stricklin said. “We want a plan that accommodates the needs five years, 10 years and 20 years from now.”
In order to handle a problem every athletic director would enjoy having on the agenda, Stricklin is going back to what he said on day one of the job.
“25 years ago we had 30,000 seats in our football stadium,” Stricklin said on May 7. “This year we averaged almost 55,000 people. I think we need to start coming up with a vision right now of what 75,000
football seats might look like. We're not going to get there overnight. It's going to be a process, but once you have a long term plan then you can start phasing it in.”
The plan Stricklin had envisioned on that day is now a project being assisted by a Kansas City architectural firm called Populous, which specializes in the design of sports facilities and convention centers, as well as the planning of major special events. Populous has played a
role in the building of the new Yankee Stadium, Wimbledon Centre Court, San Francisco's AT&T Park, Chicago's United Center arena, Cleveland Browns Stadium, Heinz Field, Arsenal's and London's 2012 Olympic Stadium.
“As the world becomes more populous, and ever-advancing technology separates us into audiences of one, our expertise becomes more relevant,” Joe Spear, the Kansas City-based firm’s senior principal, said in a March 31 release that announced its name change. “Our singular
focus is to design containers of emotion for the collective energy of lots of passionate people.”
Mississippi State associate athletic director Mike Nemeth’s Twitter account continues to track the school’s season ticket count and as of last week the Bulldogs passed the 40,000 mark. That number includes the likely assumption of the 11,000 student tickets being sold when
they arrive on campus in August. Nemeth tweeted Thursday that just 884 season tickets were available for the lower level during the 2010 season.
Currently MSU’s Davis-Wade Stadium is the second smallest stadium in the Southeastern Conference with a capacity of 55,082 only topping Vanderbilt and its 33,773 number.
Last season, with the excitement of a new coach in Dan Mullen and a new direction to the program, Mississippi State set a school record for sales with 40,901.
The Bulldogs head coach sees that excitement as another recruiting opportunity to impress the in-state talent his staff hopes to dominate in the future.
“As we do that and continue to grow within our program, it shows a lot of our local players that they don't have to leave to go somewhere to play big-time football,” Mullen said during SEC Media Days. “They have that big-time atmosphere right there in their backyard. That would be something for us.”
Mullen is now staring down a possibility of more fan excitement after a first season that resulted in a 5-7 record.
“Our fans have obviously bought into the program we're trying to build,” Mullen said. “We come out this spring, I was worried we wouldn't have anybody show up at the spring game. It's year two, it's different. They shattered the record again.”
The results of the 2010 football season for the Mississippi State program could be a pivotal year to matching the fan hopes for continued success in order to continue an upward trend of ticket sales. For a town that doesn’t eclipse 30,000 people, it is seemingly
a tradition of the SEC schools to build football palaces that can host at least two and a half times the size of the town and market size.
“I’ve worked at Auburn and they have 35-40,000 people (and) they have a stadium that seats 85,000,” Stricklin said. “I don’t think that’s real unusual in college athletics. If you look at the entire southeast, there’s not an SEC town that looks like they have the population base that can support the kind of crowds we have. Given the passion of SEC football, we seem to be able to attract those kinds of crowds. I think to assume all our fans come from Starkville is missing the boat. It’s critical that we grow our base.”
Stricklin mentioned in the Starkville Daily News interview that despite having conversations with Populous officials in Kansas City, he has no physical vision of what a newly renovated Davis-Wade Stadium
could look like. He did say one consistent trait involved in the new project would be the construction would not be done a contrasting style to the MSU campus.
“I think it’s real important that all of our venues look like they belong on Mississippi State’s campus,” Stricklin said. "(To see) a sense of architectural connection…there’s got to be a sense that this
venue should be at Mississippi State. That’s why you hire architects."
During the interview with the Starkville Daily News, MSU’s athletic director referenced Doak Campbell Stadium at Florida State University as an example to what he'd like to possibly see at Davis-Wade Stadium.
FSU's renovations in 2003 included a brick facade that surrounds the stadium. The brick matches the architectural design of most of the buildings on the Florida State campus.
“They had a lot of exposed steel and they’ve used brick, a lot of brick to change the way it looks and it looks like it belong on their campus now,” Stricklin said. “We want a similar approach.”