By LEE ADAMS
Fan day has become a staple for preseason football at Mississippi State and on Saturday thousand’s flocked to the Palmeiro Center to meet their favorite players and coaches.
MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin sees the day as a great way to bring the athletes closer to the fans.
“Our coaches and players are put on a pedestal by the fans, but they are real people,” said Stricklin. “This (fan day) gives this fans a chance to interact with the players and see their personalities, get pictures taken. get autographs and create great memories for them and the players.”
Plenty of memories, pictures and autographs took place on Saturday, prior to the Bulldogs opening the season Thursday night at Memphis.
Seats added at Hump
There are several on-going projects taking place within the landscape of Mississippi State athletics that will make the atmosphere better for the fans, athletes and coaches.
One of those has been the addition of new seats at Humphrey Coliseum to help with how fans come and go from the area, while increasing the seating capacity as well.
The project is eliminating the two stair wells at mid court by making the floor seats accessible from the middle concourse.
Eliminating the stairwells will create some mid-court sections that Stricklin described as “prime seating.”
At the completion of the project, the Hump should have about 100 additional seats installed and available this fall.
“The traffic flow wasn’t a very good situation,” said Stricklin. “This will help with our traffic flow and getting people in and out of the seats and add more seats for our fans.”
Soccer dressing room
Over the years, the Bulldog’s soccer complex has added new things over the past few years, but one thing they are yet to have is a locker room for the players.
That is about to change.
“It’s still in the planning stages there,” said Stricklin. “We have a beautiful setting for our soccer program so getting a locker room over by the field will be the last piece of the puzzle for our soccer facilities.”
Right now the locker room for the soccer program is located in Humphrey Coliseum.
A recent study took place nationwide to label schools by its sport dominance judging by the number of fans that attended games.
This study labeled MSU as a “Two-Sports Dominant” school, based on their football and basketball attendance.
“It’s a credit to our fan base,” said Stricklin. “We don’t have the biggest fan base but they are more engaged than some other fan bases.”
The study focuses only on football and basketball, but Stricklin believes MSU would have to be a three-sport dominant school.
“You could say with us that we are three-sport dominant with baseball,” said Stricklin. “We are always one of the nations leaders in attendance in college baseball.”
Football tickets have been flying off the shelves since they went on sale with season tickets selling out in record time, all the Mini-pack tickets selling out and individual tickets selling out for three games.
“It’s remarkable,” said Stricklin about the ticket sales. “The biggest difference in our program today than it was two or three years ago is the support and the way our fan base has said ‘we’re going to be there, we’re going to be supportive, we’re going to show and we’re going to be loud’ and we have unified fan base.”
The fans are clearly the backbone of the Bulldogs support system and Stricklin sees them as more than just that.
“The fan base we have is really a secret weapon for us right now,” said Stricklin. “It’s propelling our program and it has created a sense of pride with being a Bulldog that probably hasn’t existed in a while. We’ve got to keep making it bigger and better, so more people will want to come and be a part of it.”
The chance to come and be a part of the 2011 home games is quickly disappearing as there are only tickets available for three games.
Those games with remaining tickets are the LSU, South Carolina and Ole Miss games and those tickets are limited.
Tickets are still available for all the road games except Alabama.
Davis Wade Stadium future
MSU is in the planning stages of adding on to Davis Wade Stadium, but the most recent addition to the stadium are two ribbon boards and the names of the first four legends being put on the inside of the stadium.
The first four legends are Johnie Cooks Jack Cristil, D.D. Lewis and Jackie Parker.
Those additions are the ones that will fans will notice when LSU comes to town on September 15, but Stricklin is always looking to improve.
“We want to continually do things that improve the experience of attending a football game,” said Stricklin. “We are getting hot and heavy into the stadium expansion, but I like seeing us touch every one of our facilities on an on-going basis. The facilities say a lot about our program. so I think it’s critical that we improve and add to those.”
The planning of the expansion to Davis Wade Stadium is underway and Stricklin isn’t going to rush the process.
“We probably have another six to eight months of design work ahead,” said Stricklin. “During that time we will have to get approvals from the IHL (Institute of Higher Learning), but I’m looking to have everything completed by 2014. A lot of stuff has to happen between now and then, but that’s my hope.
The expansion is going to add around 5,000 to 7,000 more seats. Also, the fact that Davis Wade Stadium will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2014 isn’t the reason Stricklin is hoping for the expansion to be completed but did say it was a “neat coincident.”