Dudy Noble Field at Polk-Dement Stadium… “The Dude.” The “Carnegie Hall of College Baseball.” Home of the Diamond Dawgs.
The Mississippi State faithful love it. It’s widely revered throughout the world of college baseball. Its Left Field Lounge is one of the great traditions in all of college athletics, and one for which Mississippi State is known far and wide. Now, Mississippi State University is proposing changes. Some fans aren’t happy. Why? Let’s talk about it.
First, have you seen what they have planned for this thing?
Simply amazing! This would, by quite a long shot, give the Diamond Dawgs the most spectacular venue in college baseball — bar none.
So what’s the problem?
There are a couple of objections, but the biggest one is, obviously, the Left Field Lounge.
It’s one of the greatest and most unique traditions in college sports. It’s been imitated, but never duplicated.
I was out at The Dude last weekend and enjoyed the Left Field Lounge as a guest of the famous, or perhaps infamous, or maybe celebrated, or notorious (I guess which adjective you choose would depend on your point of view) Mississippi State blogger and Twitter warrior, @dawgsmack. We enjoyed the Left Field Lounge, and, as much as is possible when the team you love is getting beaten (which isn’t very much), we enjoyed the game. We also enjoyed a couple fine cigars, and as we did so, we discussed the future of Dudy Noble Field.
According to the master plan renderings for the new Dudy Noble Field, the view from where we were sitting would have looked something like this:
I found it terr
ibly interesting what Dawg Smack had to say about the Left Field Lounge, because he has a perspective on it that I do not. He has been there to watch the Left Field Lounge grow up from its infancy, when a few people would just back their trucks up to the fence and throw a couple chairs in the bed, to the great gameday environment it has become. Of course, as we talked, we also enjoyed a couple bottles of wine that I thought most appropriate for the occasion, so perhaps I got a little confused on which ideas we threw back and forth were originally my own and which were Smack’s.
I have to say that when talk of the “New Dude” first started, I was excited about the plans for the facilities, but was immediately concerned and discouraged about changes to, or possibly losing, the Left Field Lounge.
Don’t get me wrong. I do see the need for some changes. LSU, Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M, umiss, and Alabama all have newer (if not necessarily nicer) stadiums than Mississippi State. If we never upgrade anything, how long can we maintain that title of “The Carnegie Hall of college baseball?” There is also concern over the school’s liability from safety issues. I certainly saw some rigs out there in the Left Field Lounge that were more than a little suspect regarding safety, especially when you consider children and adults who have been enjoying adult beverages. Some changes have to be made, and while we’re at it, let’s go ahead and have the best stadium in college baseball, but let’s not lose our tradition.
I just don’t think of Mississippi State folk as the type of people who sit idly by and allow their beloved and hallowed traditions be taken away. Who are we? umiss?
"Q – Will there still be a Left Field LoungeTM? A – Yes! It is important that the history and tradition of the Left Field LoungeTM be preserved. However, there will be some adjustments to allow for more fans to safely enjoy this unique college baseball experience, while maintaining the community feel that makes Left Field LoungeTM so special.For safety purposes, the outfield ‘spots’ will be built permanently into place. The goal is for current passholders to be given the opportunity to help customize their location in the Left Field LoungeTM. Each of the 86 spots will have access to added amenities such as electricity, storage, and a common concourse connecting the entire outfield facility to the rest of the stadium. New restroom and concession areas will also be located in the renovated outfield area.No longer will outfield space holders be required to bring their “rigs” to campus and go through the painstaking process of parking, securing, making their areas safe, and then removing their “rigs” at season’s end. Plus, as fall baseball continues to become a popular attraction, the permanency will allow fans more opportunities to enjoy this cherished location.Q – Why change the outfield? The Left Field LoungeTM is a Mississippi State tradition, and iconic in college baseball.A – As stated above, preservation of the Left Field LoungeTM is of the utmost importance to everyone, but safety, convenience, and comfort are key considerations. The new Left Field LoungeTM design maintains the ambiance Bulldog fans have enjoyed, removes potential hazards, allows for a permanent student area in right field and provides amenities that maintain this premier location fans have enjoyed for years.Your safety is our primary goal – but rest assured, this will be done in a way that also allows the Left Field LoungeTM to retain its unique culture and appeal."
But, you see, it’s the individual, homemade rigs that make the Left Field Lounge such a unique tradition. I’m sorry, but this:
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Some detractors of the Left Field Lounge have labeled it as “redneck.” So? They say that like it’s a bad thing. The very term “redneck” came from hardworking, salt of the earth, blue-collar (and black-lunged) coal miners standing up for themselves. That’s what Mississippi State folk do! We stand up for ourselves and our hardworking, Southern, everyman ways, and if we want to, we’ll let our redneck flag fly!
Now, this Dudy Noble renovation is going to cost $40 million. Construction cannot begin until we reach a $20 million down payment from private donations. That may take a while.
History shows us that donations to a project such as this usually happen a lot faster if the team involved is winning, so the disappointment that has been this season surely cannot help. The donations would also come a lot easier if the entire Mississippi State Baseball fan base was united in their desire and excitement for the project. As it stands now, a whole lot of fans just can’t get behind it.
What would probably help (aside from the team having better results, which I’m sure we will next season) is if AD Stricklin and company would take this project back to the drawing board and incorporate a few compromises.
There is, aside from the Left Field Lounge, the issue of the Lifetime Ticket holders. MSUBulldogClub.com also addresses this:
"Q – What happens to those who made a one-time donation for chairback seats when the current Polk-Dement Stadium was constructed in the mid-1980s?A – Mississippi State Athletics remains appreciative of those who helped make the current stadium a reality nearly 30 years ago, helping the Maroon and White become the benchmark for college baseball facilities in the process.There are currently about 3,500 chairback seats whose ticketholders made one-time gifts. Those ticketholders have been allowed to keep those seats each year as long as they continued to purchase the season ticket. In a new stadium, those ticketholders will A) be guaranteed the opportunity to acquire a chairback seat(s) in the new facility, and B) will receive credit and consideration for gifts associated with their original chairback gift.Mississippi State appreciates the input of our season ticket holders. Comments about the improvement of restrooms, concessions, viewing areas, walkways, etc., are addressed in the new facility. These improvements, of course, can not be made without your financial support."
You may notice that nowhere here are these seats referred to as “Lifetime Tickets,” though that is what they were called and what is printed on the tickets. To address this issue, I propose that the school honor these Lifetime Tickets, but… only for the original purchaser. They were called “Lifetime Tickets,” not “legacy tickets” or “let’s use grandpa’s tickets.” If the original purchaser is no longer living or no longer able to use the tickets, then I believe that the school has fulfilled their end of the bargain.
Back to the Left Field Lounge… On safety…
The rickety rigs are a legitimate liability concern. Certainly, though, this is a concern that we can remedy. Mississippi State is an engineering school! We need to draft a uniform specification code on what is and what is not considered safe. This code should incorporate specifications on stair height, handrail and guardrail requirements, underpinning, structural strength and durability, etc. (This is where those ideas Dawg Smack and I threw around get a bit mixed up. I believe it was he who said…) All rigs must pass inspection before they are allowed to be pulled or driven into the Left Field Lounge and parked. Problem solved.
Dawg Smack also suggested that the school be allowed to do whatever they want with all of the outfield to the right of dead center field. I think this is where they can build their permanent structure “lounges.” All they should do to left field, according to Dawg Smack, is level and tier it for the portable rigs. I also think they should build in some electrical and water access. Of course, there will be fewer spots available since they’re using only the left field, so, according to Dawg Smack, they should have a lottery among current slot holders for them. (It is a compromise.) I also think that since the space-holders at the new facility will actually have spaces that are much nicer (tiered, leveled, possibly concrete?) and more exclusive, that the school should feel justified in charging a little more for the permits.
So… Mr. Stricklin, given the difficulty that will be involved in raising the kind of dough that this project will require unless we’re dealing with a much more unified fan base, can we please “pump the brakes” a bit and consider these concessions in the spirit of compromise? Diamond Dawg fans, would a compromise like this one represent something more like a project we can all get behind and support?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section. Expansion and renovation will happen. Change will occur. But what kind of changes can we live with? If we aren’t made to feel like our school’s administration is ripping away the traditions that we love as has happened to the fans of another school a little to the north, can we support this ambitious undertaking? Can we build the most awesome monument to college baseball ever?
Look at it this way… At least they aren’t scrapping the whole thing and moving to a new site. It’s still going to be “The Dude.” The Dude abides.