Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Davis Wade Stadium Lee Blvd & Moore Rd Starkville, MS 39759
Year Opened: 1914 Capacity: 61,337
Needs More Cowbell
Mississippi State University was one of the first land grant established in the United States. Located in Starkville, Mississippi, it opened in 1878. Today it is the second largest university in the state with a student body of nearly 20,000 students on its’ 420 acre campus. Though thought of as a strictly agricultural school, it offers a diverse number of fields of study including aeronautics, automobile design and meteorology.
The Bulldogs compete in the very tough West Division of the Southeastern Conference. They compete in the second oldest stadium in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), as it opened in 1914. It is the fourth oldest of stadium for college football at all levels. From its inception until 2000 it was known as Scott Field. The name was changed to Davis Wade Stadium in 2000 in recognition of a major gift from an alumnus that enabled a massive renovation of the stadium. The field itself still retains the Scott name.
The stadium has gone through 5 major renovations over the years. For the most part, the purpose was to enlarge the capacity of the stadium, which is presently 61,337. However, the last three renovations have brought the stadium into the 21st century and addressed improvement of the fan experience. In 2000 the stadium added 50 sky boxes, 1,700 club level seats and a second upper deck, adding 7,000 more seats. 2008 brought one of the most physically obvious upgrades to the stadium, as a high definition video display board measuring 152 feet wide and 135 feet tall was added to the south end zone. A 2014 renovation added a west concourse to the stadium and increased the number of restrooms and concession stands to the venue. A second video board was also added to the north end zone. These improvements have been well received by the Bulldog fanbase, as MSU now has more than 50,000 season ticket holders.
Food & Beverage 3
While your stomach might be full after tailgating at the Junction or a pregame visit to the Little Dooey, there are plenty of food selections available once you are inside the stadium. It is mostly the standard stadium fare, including hot dogs, hamburgers, peanuts, chips and sodas. The one food item that really is exceptional are the pulled pork sandwiches, as the BBQ sauce is to die for. No alcohol is served within the stadium.
The 2014 renovations to Davis Wade Stadium have greatly reduced the lines at the concession stands, as it increased the number of stands from 110 to 156 locations.
When you arrive at Davis Wade Stadium, there is little or no evidence that it is a more than 100-year-old facility.
Its exterior walls are brick, which works very well with the Bulldogs maroon team colors. The end zone video boards define it as a very modern facility and a pleasant cream color is used on the exterior side of the boards which looks very attractive as you approach the stadium. The seating bowl inside the stadium also follows the maroon and cream color scheme. The seat layout is very well done, so that there is not a bad seat in the house. Fans are kept well informed on the game stats, scores from other games and replays of key plays by the two video boards. The sound system was upgraded at the same time the video boards were installed so the announcements during the game are almost concert quality. As you would suspect at a land grant university, Scott Field has a natural turf of Bermuda grass.
Despite all this modernization, Mississippi State has kept many long-held traditions alive. Among the longest of these is Bully, the Bulldog mascot. He is present in both canine and costume form at every game. As a matter of fact, Bully I (circa 1935) is also on site, as he is buried at the 50 yard line under the home team bench. A second longtime tradition is the Famous Maroon Band, a marching band organization that has been around since the 1920’s. Today the band has more than 300 members and it puts on a great halftime show.
Probably the best-known tradition is the use of cowbells to provide a deafening amount of noise to drive the visiting team (and their fans) crazy. The tradition supposedly started when a cow wandered onto the field during an Ole Miss/MSU game. The Bulldogs came from behind and won the game and saw the cow as good luck. Since a cow is not legal on the field of play, cowbells were thought to be the next best thing. The level of noise created by 50,000 cowbells caused the SEC to outlaw their use from 1977-2009. In 2010 the conference relented and allowed their use whenever the ball is not in play (during the huddle, time outs, tv breaks and between periods.) One new tradition created by present head coach Dan Mullen is the playing of “Don’t Stop Believin’ “at the break between the 3rd and 4th quarters. All 61,000 fans (and their cowbells) sing and ring along to the anthem.
While Starkville’s small college town atmosphere is nice, its lack of parking and isolation from air travel make it average as far as the neighborhood surrounding the area.
Davis Wade Stadium is in the middle of the MSU campus. The campus makes up a major portion of Starkville. This is your textbook college town with the entire population having some relationship with the university. Starkville is in the northeast corner of the state and is relatively isolated from any major city, as it is located more than 125 miles from Jackson. The nearest airport is the Golden Triangle Regional Airport (GRT) located in Columbus, Mississippi, about 30 miles to the east.
As is true in many college towns, this isolation is not necessarily a bad thing. The university provides sports, cultural events and other activities to keep the town alive and vibrant throughout the year. Starkville is not overrun with national restaurant chains, which allows for a vibrant local restaurant scene. Among the local favorites are The Grill at Central Station and The Little Dooey. You will find some great regional dishes including BBQ and catfish. Hotels in the area are rather limited… so it is best to make your reservations well in advance.
Hotels within walking distance of the stadium include the Courtyard Starkville and the Hampton Inn Starkville.
Despite a long drought as far as SEC championships, the Maroon faithful are loud and proud, earning them a much more than average rating.
Bulldog fans can be characterized by two words…loyal and loud. MSU has not won a SEC title since 1941, but it has been on the upswing for the last 7 years with some upset victories over LSU, Auburn, Alabama and their in-state rival, Ole Miss. The fans passion for the team has stayed constant even in the lean years.
The MSU faithful make a long weekend out of Bulldog home games. They begin arriving on Thursday afternoon so they can take part in the Cowbell Yell, a pep rally featuring the coach, the team, the Famous Maroon Band and the cheerleaders. After that it is time to stake out their tailgate at The Junction. The Junction is a grassy area at the south end of the stadium which becomes a mass of maroon for the rest of the weekend. The Junction name is derived from the fact that it formerly was the junction for several railroad lines.
Davis Wade Stadium opens its gates two hours prior to the game and the Bulldog fans fill it early… ringing their cowbells as much as possible to disrupt the visitors pre-game preparation. Almost every SEC opponent will tell you that Mississippi State is one of the toughest places to play in the conference.
Paul Finebaum, a longtime sports talk show host and commentator for the SEC Network says it the best when describing Mississippi State fans “They are the most genuine, authentic fans in America.”
Lack of interstate access, easy air connections and limited lodging all bring the accessibility of Starkville down to very average.
Getting to Starkville is the hard part… once you are there it is easy to get around. There are two ways to get to Starkville…. via car or a regional airline flight. Starkville is more than 100 miles from Oxford, Jackson or Memphis. The closest airport is in Columbus Mississippi which is served by a variety of regional carriers. From the airport, it is still a 25 mile drive, so a rental car will be needed. There are several state highways leading into Starkville, but remember as we mentioned in the previous section, Bulldog fans start to arrive on Thursday and traffic will be heavy. We recommend that you locate a parking area that allows for multiple day stays and leave your car there! Starkville and the MSU campus are within easy walking distance once you are in town. You will find that Davis Wade Stadium is easy to navigate, as the 2014 renovation greatly improved access into the stadium and cleared up many of the bottlenecks that formerly existed. There are 40% more concession stands and 310 more restrooms than before so you should not find any long lines. After the games remember one word … patience. It is a good idea to go get a bite to eat after the game and let the traffic thin out.
Return on Investment 3
High ticket prices, high parking costs and limited lodging all add up to a very average return on investment.
The face value on MSU tickets runs between $15-$96. However, with a 50,000-person season ticket base and being in the same football division with Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas and Ole Miss you will most likely be paying much more on the secondary ticket market. Parking in Starkville is at a premium, as the town swells to three times its population. Lots can be found with parking for $30-$50. A less expensive alternative is to park in one of the satellite parking areas away from the campus and take the free SMART bus shuttles to the stadium. Game weekends have every hotel in town charging special event rates ($100-$250). You can save a great deal on lodging by staying at one of the airport hotels in Columbus and driving the 20 miles into Starkville for a game.
Unfortunately, Starkville’s isolated location and high ticket demand from its season ticket base make it an expensive trip.
MSU has a great college sports tradition and its facilities are topnotch, earning it an above average rating.
Mississippi State has sent more than 150 players on to the NFL. Probably the most famous current player is Dak Prescott, the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
Davis Wade has created a unique, non-seated area to watch the game at field level called The Gridiron. The area is located behind the end zone and is open to any season ticket holder no matter where their seats are located in the stadium. A membership fee for this area is charged, but it can be purchased on a game by game basis.
MSU fans hold the Guinness World Record for largest simultaneous cowbell ringing with 5,748. We have no idea who is in second place!
Dudy Noble Field has been considered one of the finest college baseball stadiums in the country for many years. The baseball Bulldogs are frequent participants in the College World Series.
The city of Starkville holds “New South Weekends” in conjunction with each Bulldog home game. The weekends start on Friday night with special dining or entertainment packages and go through Sunday, when stores open for special hours and Bulldog Brunches are offered at area restaurants. Go to www.starkville.org for more details.
Despite being the most isolated outpost in the SEC, making the journey to Starkville and MSU for a Bulldogs game is well worth the journey. The pregame gatherings at The Junction, the cowbells and the small college town atmosphere combine to make Saturdays in the Fall in Starkville a special experience.