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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Stricklin discusses facilities, stadium expansion


     Q: When would you like to break ground on the new football facility?

     A: I hate throwing time tables out there just because they get you blocked in. We obviously want to go as quickly as we can — As soon as we have all the pieces in place, all the fundraising wrapped up and the final plan on the facility, which we’re real close on that. We had a layout; we’re tweaking a few things about the facility before we go to construction documents. As soon as we have the pieces in place we won’t waste time. I’m optimistic we can get it going pretty shortly.

     Q: How much time did you spend studying similar buildings on other campuses?

     A: We took a trip a couple summers ago where we went to four or five schools, went to both the Oregon schools, Baylor, Nebraska, Arkansas and Missouri. Dan has obviously been a number of places that have had those things. I’ve been at four or five different schools. Greg Byrne worked a number of places. You take what you’ve seen and pull it together, not just what you’ve seen on that trip but places you’ve been.

     Q: Is there anything you took specifically from one school or another?

     A: I don’t think so. Any time you walk into another school’s facilities, you kind of do your own evaluation. Traffic flow is an important thing. I just mean logistically; do the players have to walk through the training to get to the equipment room? That doesn’t make any sense. We want to make sure it makes a good presentation and impact on visitors.

     One thing that was interesting; [John] Cohen was on that tour with us as well. We walked into the Nebraska building and it had this beautiful waterfall in the main lobby with their logo behind it, and I was like ‘Wow, that’s nice looking. That’s  sharp.’  The coaches, Dan and John, looked at it and said, ‘To a high school kid, that doesn’t matter at all.’ But we walked into Baylor’s women’s basketball gym and they’ve got banners of all their current players hanging up. They said that’s what impacts the guys we try to recruit. We want something that’s functional, but we also want something that makes an impact on the kids in this state that we want to come wear the maroon and white.

     Q: You were around in the late 80’s. Is it neat to see the way the campus has changed?

     A: I like history. I like going back and looking at old pictures from before I was here. The great thing about a college campus is it’s a living, breathing organism. There’s constant change and it’s constantly being developed and renewed. Twenty-five years ago we had 30,000 seats at our football stadium and now we’re putting 57,000 people in there, and 25 years from now we may be putting 80,000 people in there. Whether we are or we aren’t, we have to have a plan in place in case we do. Yes, it’s neat to look back and see what we’ve come from, but it’s even more exciting to look forward and see where it could go and what could be next on the horizon. You say things like 20 to 25 years and think that’s a long time, but the older you get the more you realize that’s not that long at all.

     Q: What is on the horizon for some of the smaller sports?

     A: We have an approach that we want to touch all of our facilities on an annual basis in some way — whether it’s new seats at baseball, re-doing the track, new lighting at volleyball, practice area at golf. You never want to get to where you say ‘we’re done there.’ We don’t have a written down five-year plan, but my hope is to develop a five-year plan with the annual improvements listed out so we know what we’re spending and what the priorities are. I think that’s healthy. I’d like for us to put together a feasibility to study on the softball and tennis complex since they butt-up against each other. When football gets their new facility, one of the practice fields frees up room for an indoor tennis complex. We need to look at a clubhouse out by the golf course for the men’s and women’s teams. Soccer needs a clubhouse of their own.

     Q: Is there a possibility of stadium expansion being a multi-step process?

     A: I hope we can do all that’s in those renderings at one time. We do have future phases planned … Which would be an upper deck in the north endzone, and then you go back and repeat that process in the south endzone.

     We have rough cost estimates of $80 million. Once we get closer to it, it could be more than that and we have to scale back a little bit. It could be less than that and we can do all of it. That’s our hope.

     Q: Would you be able to do two decks on the south endzone with the video board and M-Club building there?

     A: That would be probably a phase three or four. Depending on how far down the road it is, that may be time to look at doing a new M-Club within the stadium structure itself and not have a free-standing lettermen’s club and locker room. If you ever did that, we would take down the structures and integrate them within the stadium itself.     

     The lifespan on those things is probably about a decade. Would we build around a massive jumbotron because it’s kind of become our identity? We probably would. We’re gonna put a good size one in the north. We have a chance to make that part of our identity, the really larger-than-life video board. It’s now an important part of our gameday atmosphere, but I think it has a good chance to become part of our brand.

     Q: When would you like to start expansion construction?

     A: That’s another one of those deals where I hate to give it a timeline. One of the factors is going to be what does our demand look like this year. Right now it’s good, but we haven’t sold out yet. We don’t have 100 percent renewal yet. If we get 100 percent renewal and have a big, long waiting list that might accelerate our decision making process a little bit.

     Q: What if for some reason attendance does dip next year?

     A: Our goal is to create great experiences, and it’s incumbent upon us to create an experience that people want to be at Davis Wade Stadium seven times a year for. We’ve got other issues if attendance drops down. We’re not doing our job around here.

     Q: Did you take a look at other stadiums for expansion?

     A: We didn’t go visit any, but working in this business you go to a lot of stadiums. That’s where it’s good to have a group like Populous involved. Little things, like we know you need a lot of restrooms, they know the appropriate ratio for customers-to-restrooms and customers-to-point-of-sale for concession stands. That’s really helpful. In addition to knowing, how much concourse space do you need? How many elevators do you really need? What’s better, elevators or escalators? All that stuff that is important to look at, but I think the aesthetics piece of it is going to be real critical.

     Q: Are you able to get much feedback from fans on what they would like to see in the north endzone?

     A: Premium seats are something that people like to talk about. We get a lot of feedback on that. Hear a lot of feedback from everybody about restrooms and concessions. Other than just more seats, everyone wants to close it in.

     Q: With the enrollments growing, will you stay at 11,000 for the student ticket allotment?

     A: Right now, I think we would. As a percentage of our student body and a percentage of our stadium size, we’re one of the top two or three in the league in the number of seats reserved for students. They’re relatively inexpensive, but we do get student fees that kind of offset that, so when you add it all together it’s probably average. It’s interesting, we’re at 11,000, we’re selling out, but I think 11,000 might be a good balance for us. You want just enough demand on the supply that everyone thinks ‘You have to get them if you want them.’ I think 11,000 is a good number for us. Will it ever change? It could, but for now it’s a good number for us.
    We may get to the point where we have to do a lottery or decide only sophomores and up can get student tickets. We may end up doing that.

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    The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
    Stricklin discusses facilities, stadium expansion