According to plans as currently announced, construction of a new baseball stadium at Dudy Noble Field will begin at the conclusion on the 2016 season. This means that Left Field Lounge, as we currently know it, will cease to exist.
While there are many who claim to be experts on the history of the Lounge, there are few who can date their first experience there any earlier than can I. My first visit to this sacred piece of real estate came in 1968. I was an 8 year old third grader and my older brother checked me out of school early one spring afternoon to attend a mid-week afternoon game at Dudy Noble Field.
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Dudy Noble opened in its current location in 1967 and did not have lights until 1970, so all games were day games back then. It was nothing like today’s lounge and in fact, it wasn’t even called Left Field Lounge until some years later. Cars drove up and parked on the hill behind the left field fence. Admission was free, and the spaces were first come first serve. Students would sit on the hood of their cars, bring lawn chairs or sunbathe on a towel. Crowds varied greatly but were always large (relatively speaking) for SEC games. The highlight of that particular day for me, besides escaping the monotony of school for an afternoon, was chasing down and securing a home run ball hit while my brother and I were there.
From those humble beginnings, I have personally witnessed Left Field Lounge evolve into what it has become today. And that’s what makes it special. It happened organically, spontaneously and was not something contrived by the athletic department. It is truly unique to college baseball, which is one reason why it is stunning that the new stadium largely does away with it. As one random LSU fan I met this past Friday night put it, “This is what Mississippi State is famous for. Why would you do anything that might destroy it?”
There appears to be a sizeable number of fans who are not on board with the current plan, and many of those fans have loudly and publicly expressed their opposition. Others haven’t spoken out but have quiet doubts about what has been proposed. I think we would all agree that a project this size has a much higher likelihood of success when there is widespread support for it. It seems obvious to me that the current plan could be tweaked somewhat to address the legitimate concerns of long time baseball fans. My buddy Bent Bulldog discusses some of those ideas in this article.
Will the Stricklin regime listen? Or will they stubbornly press on? There have been no public statements regarding the progress of fund raising. Based on conversations I have had with those who normally support such projects, my guess is that the fund raising is not going particularly well. Perhaps that explains the necessity of putting out this tweet:
Weak financial support could force the administration back to the drawing board. I personally believe that there exists a palatable compromise where a portion of the lounge area is left intact, which could help shore up fan support for the project.
But unless plans are changed, Saturday May 14 looks to be the last game to be played in the currently configured Dudy Noble Field. So here is your countdown clock to end of Left Field Lounge as we know it: