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  • Matt Colville

Nusz Park – Mississippi State Bulldogs


Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Nusz Park 425 Lakeview Dr Starkville, MS 39759


Year Opened: 2016

Capacity: 1,100

 

New Home at Nusz Park

The Bulldogs softball program is a fairly new sport at Mississippi State University, with its first year being in 1997. Prior to that, the school competed as an independent in softball from 1982 thru 1986 before taking a ten-year break. Because of Title IX and its impact on women’s sports, the SEC began sponsoring softball officially in 1997. Since starting back up, the Bulldogs softball team has been one of the more successful softball programs in the conference. Though they haven’t made any trips to Oklahoma City for CWS, the Lady Bulldogs have made 14 regional appearances, with their first being in 2000.


The Lady Bulldogs play on the north side of campus at the brand new Nusz Park, which opened in 2016 and is located right next to the famous Dudy Noble Field, home of MSU baseball. For the first 20 years, the softball team played at the MSU Softball Complex which was located on the same site. The old softball complex had only one set of bleacher seating that could hold just 300, and the field itself was beginning to show its age, so after the 2015 season, the entire softball facility was stripped down and rebuilt into what it is today.


The new state-of-the-art softball facility was constructed for just $6 million – renovations included the installation of 1,100 maroon chair back seats in addition to an expanded concourse, upgraded press box and practice facility, and the first permanent concessions stand at the softball stadium. The facility was named after former alumni couple Tommy and Terri Nusz, who made a significant contribution toward the construction of the park.


Food & Beverage 3

Part of the recent renovation included the opening of the first full-service concessions stands at the softball complex. Though you will not find anything fancy, the aptly titled Hail State Eats stand serves the basics with everything being priced at $2 to make it easy on the wallet – hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, peanuts, candy, and 20oz sodas are all the same price. Coke is the soft drink provider and no alcohol is sold, though you are allowed to bring your own beer if you drink it out of a cup.


Atmosphere 3

Nusz Park sits nicely tucked away on the north side of campus right next to all the other MSU athletic facilities except Davis Wade Stadium. The field faces to the north, with beautiful Chadwick Lake off in the distance behind right field. The Bulldog athletic facilities are behind the complex, with A. J. Pitts Tennis Center and Nusz Park sharing the same entrance; there is even a walkway where you can walk between both venues.


Nusz Park blends in nicely with its surroundings – the brick facade makes it look like just another campus building. The former MSU Softball Complex consisted of one set of bleachers behind home plate that extended from dugout to dugout, but the renovation in 2016 added over 1,000 maroon chair back seats, which is more than double the number the old complex could hold. There’s also standing room only sections with drink rails at the top of the concourse, where fans can watch the game from high above. Taking inspiration from Dudy Noble Field next door, Nusz Park has added a boardwalk that circles the entire outfield from foul pole to foul pole.


There are also fans in the outfield grilling and tailgating and trying to recreate their own Left Field Lounge at Nusz Park.


Neighborhood 4

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 Nusz Park, 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 to 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 drink specials. And yet another favorite in this area is Dave’s Darkhorse 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, so if you time it right you may be able to see an MSU baseball game while in town. The baseball 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.


Fans 2

There was a low turnout at the game I attended most recently, but it’s hard to knock the fans as an exciting top 5 baseball match-up was taking place next door. Many of the fans at Nusz Park seem to be employees of the university or friends and family of the players. The Bulldogs are averaging about 480 fans per game, which places Nusz Park about halfway full. There were about 50 or so fans out in the outfield tailgating during the game, and as usual, there were several people ringing cowbells. Fans here are definitely reserved, and not as rowdy or passionate as their big brother counterparts next door.


Access 3

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. Twenty 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. If in town during a weekend when the baseball team is playing, parking around Nusz Park can 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. Usually though if there is not a game going on next door then there should be plenty of parking found around Chadwick Lake or the Sanderson Center, which houses the university’s fitness center.


Return on Investment 4

There is no charge for tickets to softball games at Nusz Park, so factor that in with the cheap concessions prices and you could get food, drink, and get to see top-level SEC softball action for less than five bucks – the return on investment is good at Nusz Park.


Extras 2

Nusz Park got into the national spotlight in its first year after opening, as the 2016 SEC Women’s Softball Tournament was hosted here. Though the Bulldogs did not win the tournament, it was nice for this facility to host such a high caliber event in its first year of operation.


Try to come to town when the baseball and softball teams are both playing on the same day. The newly renovated Dudy-Noble Field is truly one of the best atmospheres to watch a college baseball game at in the country – attending a game there is something every baseball fan should experience. The two fields are located next door to each other, so fans can walk between the two venues and catch a doubleheader of baseball and softball.


Final Thoughts

At Mississippi State, the softball team is often overshadowed by the other MSU sports programs, as even the women’s basketball program dominates interest in women’s sports here. However, not to be outdone, Nusz Park is an absolutely gorgeous facility in which to catch a softball game, and truly a hidden gem of a stadium that is worth checking out if you are in the area.

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