- Matt Colville
Dudy Noble Field at Polk-Dement Stadium - Mississippi State Bulldogs
Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
Dudy Noble Field at Polk-Dement Stadium 145 Lakeview Dr Starkville, MS 39759
Mississippi State Bulldogs website
Dudy Noble Field at Polk-Dement Stadium website
Year Opened: 1967
One of the Best College Ballparks in the Country
Mississippi State alum and author John Grisham once said “Great things come from humble beginnings”; nowhere does this statement ring truer than at Dudy Noble Field on the campus of Mississippi State University. Opened in 1878 as Mississippi A&M, its location was selected for excellent soil conditions, as the school was a farming and agriculture school – the ballpark itself was built on a former cow pasture, so at one time cows even grazed in what would become the outfield. This was before the crowds and before the trips to Omaha, but over the next 50 years, the tiny little baseball field in the farmlands of northeast Mississippi would transform itself into the Carnegie Hall of college baseball, and the home of college baseball’s greatest fans. Now Mississippi State is the largest university in the state, and a national powerhouse in baseball year in and year out.
Dudy Noble Field at Polk-Dement Stadium opened its doors in 1967 and is named after Dudy Noble. Noble was a baseball coach at MSU from 1920 until 1946 and was also the athletic director from 1938 to 1959. The original field was located across the street from The Junction and Davis Wade Stadium, where the current Dorman Hall is located on campus. The Bulldogs have a very storied baseball program dating back to 1909 when they won the first Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAC) Championship – the Bulldogs would win the championship five more times before becoming one of the founding members of the SEC in 1936.
Since joining the SEC, MSU’s program has grown into one of the more storied baseball programs in the country, with 11 SEC Championships, 37 Regional Appearances, 10 trips to Omaha, and 14 first-round draft picks, and the program is continuing to rise thanks in part to the re-opening of the renovated Dudy Noble Field. After the 2017 season, the university decided to basically strip everything down and re-build it – the “new” stadium opened in 2019, though fans did get a glimpse of it during the 2018 season in its partially unfinished form. But the renovations are now complete, and what has transpires is a $50 million renovation that has made Dudy Noble Field an absolutely stunning place to watch a baseball game and the top-ranked college baseball stadium in the country.
Food & Beverage 4
The thing that amazes me about the renovated Dudy Noble Field is that for such a first-class facility the prices are fairly cheap. There are four main concessions stands located on the concourse, with prices grouped between $2 and $5 – for this level of college baseball the prices are an absolute bargain. The items sold for $2 include hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, and a regular 24 oz drink, while the items sold for $5 include hamburgers, Dreamland BBQ nachos, and a large drink in an MSU souvenir cup. Dreamland is a local BBQ joint famous in Alabama, though I wasn’t aware that the establishment had made its way into Mississippi. Coke is the soft drink provider here, and as is common at university stadiums alcohol is not sold. However, there is a Chick-fil-A express stand selling chicken sandwiches and nuggets, albeit at a higher price than what you would usually pay, and there are also two Little Caesar’s Pizza stands set up, as well as a Kona Ice and a gourmet popcorn stand.
You can also venture out to the Left Field Lounge and make friends with some fans with grills – Bulldog fans will more than likely display their southern hospitality and offer you a plate. There’s literally tons of people tailgating and grilling out in this area, which extends from the Left Field Lounge area all the way to right field. You can even purchase charcoal and firewood from a stand located out in center field. In addition, even though there are signs at the entrance saying no alcohol allowed and that coolers will be checked, this rule is rarely enforced, and many fans can be seen with alcoholic drinks in their hands, especially in the outfield areas.
One word can describe the atmosphere at Dudy Noble and that is “electric.” You know you are in a special place and on college baseball’s most hallowed ground from the moment you pass the Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark statues outside the main gate. Collectively known by their nicknames “Thunder” and “Lightning,” Palmeiro and Clark are two baseball legends who’ve achieved folklore status at Mississippi State; the duo led the Bulldogs to Omaha in 1985. Clark, 1985 Golden Spikes Awards winner, would then have a 15-year career in the Big Leagues playing for multiple teams, while Palmeiro would go on to have a prominent 20-year career with the Rangers and Orioles.
There are three entrances into the stadium, with the one behind home plate on the southwest side of the stadium, and the other two entrances located in the outfield. The main gate opens into a spacious and wide concourse that empties out into the seating bowl. There are two levels with 20 suites, and both levels are usually packed with maroon and white. The views of the condos in left field and just the overall surroundings are absolutely breathtaking.
You are free to walk the entire stadium and through the outfield sections. The entrance in right field opens into a plaza area that houses the Ron Polk Ring of Honor. Polk is another person who has achieved folklore status at Mississippi State; he coached the Bulldogs from 1976 to 1997 and from 2002 to 2008. Polk’s career coaching record stands at 1218-638-2, which places him 9th all-time at MSU. His teams have won five SEC Championships, participated in 23 regional appearances, and took eight trips to Omaha.
Right past the Ring of Honor is some berm type seating that is usually packed with lawn chairs, but the outfield area is what makes Dudy Noble Field so special. In the 1970s fans started driving their trucks to games and parking in the outfield, and fans began tailgating in the back of their pickup trucks throughout the whole game. Eventually, the trucks were left behind, and bleachers were constructed on top of them – for over 30 years this area was known as Left Field Lounge. After the 2017 season, the school began doing an extensive renovation on the stadium that resulted in the removal of the trucks and makeshift bleachers that had, despite violating many safety standards, been a landmark of the university. Many diehard fans were outraged that this tradition was going to be scrapped, but after seeing the finished product I think most fans will be pleased with the outcome.
The whole area is now lined with one big elevated party deck with several makeshift bleachers set up. If you want to watch the game from your back porch you are in luck too, as recently opened for this 2019 season is a 12-unit, four-story condo called the Left Field Lofts – though pricey, the Lofts tower over left field, which only adds to the spectacle that is the Left Field Lounge. Thousands of friendly Bulldog fans young and old can be found out here tailgating during games, which creates what is considered the number one atmosphere in all of college baseball – these fans are known as college baseball’s greatest fans and it shows.
Mississippi State is unique in that it is a big SEC school in a really small town void of any attractions, as the college itself is the main attraction in town. Because there are not a lot of big cities nearby, Starkville has kind of developed its own little subculture and is void of a lot of national chains and malls, as many of the restaurants are local to the area and use local farms instead of big-name producers, and many of the shops are mom and pop style stores.
The Cotton District is the main area of town for nightlife; located just off campus within walking distance of Dudy Noble Field, the District as it’s known is home to multiple bars and restaurants. The Cotton District is unique in that many of the neighborhood’s buildings resemble buildings you’d see in New Orleans and Europe, as the developer of the neighborhood traveled there for ideas during the mid-90s. Bin612, Gringos, Drifters, Bulldog Burger, The Fountain Bar, The Klaassroom, Commodore Bobs, Two Brothers Smoked Meats, and StaggerIn are some of the bars in the District.
The Bin is a late-night favorite among college students who flock to the bar for its famous cheese fries – when the bars close around 1 am, you can find a huge line of college students stretched the whole block waiting to get the famous fries. In addition, Two Brothers Smoked Meats has really good smoked wings and its signature white BBQ sauce, while Bulldog Burger has a huge selection of different burgers. The Cotton District is a small one block area that gets really packed with a lot of college students, especially on weekends so the older crowd of alums may want to venture more towards downtown if they want to avoid hanging out with the younger college students.
Just a short way down University towards downtown you’ll encounter multiple bars, restaurants, churches, and tons of residential units and one-bedroom houses. Located midway between the District and downtown is the famous Little Dooey – this BBQ joint prides itself on its smoked BBQ, fried catfish, and other Southern favorites. Little Dooey is even a favorite among the folks at College GameDay, with Lee Corso calling it the best BBQ in the country. And right next door is Stromboli’s; this tiny rinky-dink looking Italian eatery doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the smell of the pizza being cooked can be smelled from across the street.
Right behind Stromboli’s is Central Station Grill, which is built into an old milk plant – the Grill is known for its Sunday brunch and drinks specials. And yet another favorite in this area is Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern, a pub-style bar famous for its pizza and located on the side of a sketchy looking motel. Though the motel is not the safest, the bar has really good pizza, and if you come in on your birthday everyone with you gets a free 24-inch pizza. This dimly lit tavern also has really good live music and is the place that attracts the mid to late 20s crowd, unlike the Cotton District; many of the service industry workers (cooks, chefs, waiters, bartenders, etc.) can often be found spending their weeknights at The Tavern, as many of them work during the weekend.
Besides the above, a couple of bars and restaurants in downtown I recommend checking out are The Beer Garden at Hotel Chester, which is an outdoor bar in the courtyard of an old historic hotel, and the State Theatre, which is a 3-story club type bar. Restaurant Tyler is my favorite restaurant for lunch, however, as it has a really cheap seafood blue plate special, and in its basement, there is a bar called Downstairs at Tyler, which is located in a former speakeasy that was used during prohibition. Oby’s is another favorite of mine and features sandwiches and po-boys.
Super Bulldog Weekend is the big event for the community during the spring, with hundreds of food and arts and crafts vendors lining the streets of the Cotton District. Usually held during the Spring Football Weekend, this event always coincides with a big SEC baseball series. The games this weekend usually attract a higher crowd than usual – in fact, most of the attendance records at Dudy Noble Field have been set during Super Bulldog Weekend.
You will not find a more faithful and loyal fan base than the fans at Mississippi State. On any given weekend expect to find packed crowds for all three games of the SEC series. State fans are passionate about the program and it shows here, at Dudy Noble Field currently holds the NCAA record for single-game on-campus baseball attendance at 15,586. In addition, the top 10 largest crowds in college baseball history were all seated right here. Though the record was not broken this season, expect that record to be broken here soon, perhaps next season. Fans have also created some traditions such as the playing of Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” during the 8th inning, and of course there are the cowbells – fans here are allowed to bring cowbells to the game, and though not as loud as the cowbells at a football game they still create a raucous and intimidating atmosphere.
On any given weekend expect close to 10,000 in attendance for each game – most of the seats are packed and it’s standing room only on the concourse and in the outfield deck. A good thing about coming to a big game here is that they won’t sell out; they may have every seat in the stadium filled but fans are still able to purchase tickets and find somewhere to stand. There are also multiple TVs spread out throughout the concourse to watch the game on as well.
The one drawback to coming to a game in Starkville is that the city is located in kind of a secluded area of the state. The closest major cities of Tupelo and Meridian are both located over an hour away, and the closest major airport is over an hour and a half away in Jackson (although there is a smaller Golden Triangle Regional Airport located nearby in Columbus). There are really only two roads coming into town and those are Highway 82 that runs east to west and Highway 25 which runs north and south.
However, the town has recently become more accessible to other areas in the state thanks in part to the upgraded Highway 45, which is located just outside of town and is the main road you would travel on if coming from the coastal area of Mississippi. 20 years ago this road wasn’t fully constructed, meaning you would have to get off on a rural back road and then get back on the highway later; it was also a two-lane road that made traveling to Starkville pretty dangerous. Within the past ten years, though, this road has been widened to four lanes and it is now fully finished. Make sure you fill up on gas before embarking, however, as there aren’t many stations on the roads heading into Starkville – it’s more of a peaceful rural drive through the backwoods.
Once in Starkville prepare for lots of traffic congestion, as the town is small and the roads are not exactly the nicest. Parking around the stadium can also be a nightmare as the lots fill up quickly; my suggestion, if you are in town for a weekend game, would be to park at one of the lots on campus and walk from there. There are usually several lots open just south of Davis Wade Stadium and you cut through the famous football tailgating spot The Junction.
Return on Investment 4
Chair back seating tickets go for $25, which includes seating anywhere in the two levels of the stadium. Though the price is kind of high, you could purchase a general admission ticket for $10 – you will not get a seat for this, but with the size of the crowd most of the chair backs usually sell out anyway, and with the general admission ticket you are free to roam anywhere in the concourse or along the outfield, and you are free to bring a lawn chair and sit wherever you want. Concessions prices are fairly cheap here as well.
Because the level of SEC baseball is so high, almost any weekend you attend a game during conference season is going to be a ranked matchup. So, for less than $50 you get to see a usually top 10 matchup at one of the top-rated college baseball stadiums in the country.
One extra for the Left Field Lounge and the overall atmosphere and game day presentation that the Bulldogs present – everything is top notch here and it really shows.
Another extra goes to the university for properly honoring the history of its baseball program. Bulldogs baseball has a very successful history, and you can see that everywhere you go at Dudy Noble Field, from the Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro statues behind the home plate entrance to the Ron Polk Ring of Honor in right field. The university is very proud of its history and it shows here; though Palmeiro had a somewhat controversial Major League career he is still revered at Mississippi State, and in addition to the statue the Bulldogs practice facility next door to the ballpark bears his name as well.
Another extra for the stadium itself and the diehard fans who support the MSU baseball team. Most sports at Mississippi State experience up and down years and the fans tend to be fair weather. That is not the case for the baseball team; the fans here support the program with every game almost guaranteeing a sellout. It also helps that the Bulldog baseball team is a pretty good year in and year out.
Coming to a game at Dudy Noble Field is truly a bucket list experience for baseball fans of all levels. From the grills in left field to the fans and their thousands of cowbells being rung, these all add to the spectacle of attending a game here and are something everyone should experience. Attending a game here brings everyone together whether they are a baseball fan or not. And as John Grisham also said, “I always feel like a better person after leaving a game at Dudy Noble Field.”