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  • Writer's pictureMatt Colville

Dantzler Arena - Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Bulldogs



Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14

Dantzler Arena Perkinston, MS 39573



Year Opened: 2022

Capacity: 1,540


Gulf Coast Bulldogs Dance at Dantzler Arena

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is one of 15 schools that compete in the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference (MACCC) for basketball. The MACCC is also part of the larger Region 23 of the NJCAA, which also includes five Louisiana community colleges.


Located in the tiny zero-red-light town of Perkinston, Mississippi, the Bulldogs have a pretty storied basketball history – since the first year of basketball on campus in 1927 the Bulldogs have won the MACCC State Championship 11 times, with the most recent being in 2012. MGCCC also won the Region 23 Championship 14 times, with the most recent being in 2009. In addition, MGCCC advanced to the NJCAAA Tournament twice in 1990 and 2009.


The MGCCC women's basketball team has had a little more success than the men's, as they won one NJCAA National Championship in 1973 and advanced to the championship game the next year, where they were runners-up.


The school has gone by many names since it opened as Harrison County Agricultural High School in 1911. The school became a junior college in 1925 and changed its name to Perkinston Junior College in 1942, before changing it to MGCCC in 1962. Today the college has four campuses throughout the Gulf Coast region, with a total enrollment of 8,700 students, making it the second-largest junior c, college in the state.


The Bulldogs men's and women's basketball teams play at the newest athletic venue to open on campus, the beautiful Dantzler Arena, which opened during the 2022-23 season. The new arena is part of a series of construction projects for the college that also included a new residence hall, an upgraded baseball and soccer field, and a new entrance road into campus.

 

Food and Beverage   2

There is one small concession stand located in the lobby area as soon as you enter the arena. The food and drink options are extremely limited with nachos, popcorn, candy, and chips being the only items on the menu. Bottles of Coca-Cola products are sold for $3 as well, and as usual, no alcohol is sold on campus, or anywhere in Stone County for that matter. Unfortunately, because of the lack of food options in Perkinston, you may want to grab a bite to eat before you leave your house if coming for a game here.

 

Atmosphere   4

Dantzler Arena replaces Historic Wentzell-Weathers Center, which opened in 1957 and was home to the program until 2022. The shiny, new arena holds 1,450 seats and is named after the Dantzler Family, who owned and operated a nearby sawmill in Perkinston in the 1940s. Alfred Dantzler III, the youngest of the family, was a longtime supporter and donor of the college. Dantzler Arena is an architectural beauty – from the outside the building looks quite intimidating, with the front of the building constructed with bricks, while four Greek columns make up the front entrance. The side walls of the arena are made of out tin, which makes the inside of the venue echo pretty loudly, especially when the building is packed.


There is one main entrance to the building on the south side; as soon as you enter you walk into a pretty spacious lobby, with a large trophy case being the first thing that greets you. Inside the trophy case, you will find trophies, jerseys, and basketballs from some of the past years of the Gulf Coast Basketball program. Also, in the lobby, you will find the ticket table, a pop-up merchandise stand, and a large scrolling marquee on both sides of the wall that displays upcoming games and University-related events.



Once inside Dantzler Arena, you realize that the gym is sunken, something that doesn't look evident from the outside of the building. But the facility is built into the side of the hill, so you are entering on the second floor of the building. The court faces north and south, with 10 rows of metal bleacher seating in the Bulldog colors (blue and grey) on each side, and a walkway that separates the rows, with five rows on the first level and five rows on the second. The arena has low ceilings, and the A/C duct work runs along the ceiling, creating a few obstructions if you sit in the last two rows.


The student section makes up the entire west side bleachers, while the east side bleachers are a little calmer, consisting of mostly visiting fans and family members. On the far north end of the court is another student section, and the MGCCC Band of Gold also sits there, while the Perkettes Dance team entertains the crowd from the floor.


Above the end court on the north side of the arena are all the past banners of the MGCCC State Championships the Bulldogs have won in men's and women's Basketball, while above the end court on the south side is a rather larger suite for the Bulldog Club, which overlooks the court. The centerpiece of Dantzler Arena is the two large videoboards that are on the walls above the ends of the court. The video boards are quite large for Juco basketball but are of excellent quality and show replays, advertisements, and promotions.

 

Neighborhood   2

There is no neighborhood whatsoever, as the only thing in the tiny town of Perkinston is the college. This area's thousands of acres of undeveloped pine forest made it ideal for the lumber and timber industry, and at one time this area was filled with hundreds of sawmills. Perkinston was built right on the railroad and was an important stop for the transportation of goods to the Gulf Coast. However, when the mills depleted the resources by using up most of the timber, the mills shut down and people vacated the communities along the railroad, Perkinston included.


Today there is nothing in Perkinston besides the campus. Abandoned homes and an abandoned general store line the main road along the railroad as you come into campus – today it is a ghost town around campus except for a post office and elementary school.


Fortunately, much of the land is under protection now, which has led to many outdoor activities in and around the area. Perkinston is located inside DeSoto National Forrest, and the forest offers many hiking trails nearby, the most popular being Tuxachanie Trail a few miles south of campus. Also nearby is the POW Recreation Area, a campground located on the grounds of an abandoned WWII bunker and barracks. Across the street from MGCCC’s campus is perhaps the most famous spot in Perkinston, called Perk Beach – this campground and sandbar located on Black Creek makes for a great swimming hole, and you will find many students out here on the weekends.


About 15 minutes up the road is Wiggins, where you can find a few fast-food restaurants and chain stores. There isn't much to do in Wiggins, so don't expect too much. Wiggins does have Flint Creek Water Park, a popular campground right on a lake, as well as Paul B. Johnson State Park, which is located nearby. For hotels, you'll find a few smaller chain hotels in Wiggins as well, but Hattiesburg and Gulfport/Biloxi are your best bets for any big hotels, or if you want to do any shopping; both cities are about 45 minutes away, with Perkinston located right in the middle of the two.

 

Fans 4

Like most athletic events on the MGCCC campus, the basketball program has good attendance for every game. This is partly because there isn't anything for the students to do with 40 miles, so you can expect a good turnout, with the Bulldogs averaging about 1,000 fans per game. Students take up the entire west side bleachers, and many of them will stand throughout the game, along the railing by the walkway. Because of this, you may not be able to see the action of the court when sitting on that side, as many students will be blocking your view.



As mentioned it can get quite loud in the venue – the tin walls amplify sound well. So, with the Gold Band playing and 1,000 students standing up and stomping on the metal bleachers, it can be quite intimidating for visiting opponents.

 

Access   4

Perkinston is located halfway between Hattiesburg and the Coast, conveniently located right off Highway 49, the main road from the coast to Jackson. Perkinston is about 40 minutes north of Gulfport and 40 minutes south of Hattiesburg. You can't help but see the campus as you drive on Highway 49 – Dantzler Arena is located on the back side of campus near the rest of MGCCC's athletic facilities.


Parking does fill up in the lots surrounding the arena, so I recommend parking at AL May Stadium, the school's football stadium right across the road. It is also easier to get out when you leave if you park next to the football stadium.


Once inside the Arena, everything runs smoothly; the only issue is the obstructed views on the top rows and the students who stand on the concourse in the student section along the west side bleachers.

 

Return on Investment   3

Tickets are $8 for general admission, and you are free to sit wherever you like. For most games, the women's team will play before the men's, and if the women's game runs long they sometimes shut the ticket stand down early, so it is possible to get in the men’s game for free.


 

Extras   3

If you are interested in checking out an old historic basketball gym, the old Weathers-Wentzell Center is still standing and located on the south side of campus. The old gym housed the Bulldogs men's and women's basketball teams from 1957 until 2022 and is currently used for intramural and rec sports for the college. The gym is named after former coach Bob Weathers, who guided the Bulldogs from 1961-2002. After 41 years at the helm of the Bulldogs program, Weather retired as the second-winningest basketball coach in Junior College history and was inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame. His son Wendell took over the program in 2002 and coached Gulf Coast until the 2018-19 season.


Gulf Coast has one NJCAA National Championship to the name – the 1973 women's team won the 1972-73 NJCAA National Championship, and there is a banner commemorating this feat on the northeast side of the facility. The 1990-91 men's team, coached by Weathers, also made it to the 1991 NJCAA Final Four in Hutchinson, KS.


The MGCCC women's basketball program has produced one player who won a gold medal, but not in basketball; instead, it was in track & field; Gulfport native Brittney Reese won the gold medal in the long jump in the 2012 London Games. She also won silver medals in the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games, but before she won Olympic medals, she played basketball here from 2004-06, before attending Ole Miss, where she was the NCAA indoor and outdoor Long Jump Champion in 2007 and 2008.


The Bulldogs men's team has produced one player to make it to the NBA in Journeyman player Ira Newble, who played here from 1993-95, before transferring to Miami (Ohio). His best years were the five years he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2003-2008, coming off the bench for Lebron James. Gulf Coast also produced a pretty big-time college player in Moss Point native Dale Brown, who played here for two years before leading Kentucky to the 1993 Final Four, where they lost to Michigan. Former Wichita State coach and Pascagoula native Isaac Brown also played here from 1988-1990 – Brown guided the Shockers to the 2020-21 NCAA Tournament.

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