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  • Writer's pictureMatt Colville

Southern Miss Wellness Center – Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles


Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86

Southern Miss Wellness Center 105 M. K. Turk Circle Hattiesburg, MS 39406



Year Opened: 2022

Capacity: 1,000

 

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The Southern Miss Volleyball program is one 15 sports sponsored by the University of Southern Mississippi. Since the first year of volleyball in 1979 the Golden Eagles have not had much success on the court. After 44 seasons the Golden Eagles are 599-788 and have never been to a conference tournament, nor the NCAA Tournament. However, the 2022 season marks a new beginning for Southern Miss Athletics, as the Golden Eagles have joined the Sun Belt Conference. Before that Southern Miss competed in Conference USA (1995-2021) and the Metro Conference (1982-1995).


The Golden Eagles will have one of the nicest facilities in the Sun Belt for the 2022 volleyball season, namely the beautiful and spacious Southern Miss Wellness Center, which opened in 2020 and is now entering its third year hosting volleyball matches. Previously the Golden Eagles played at Reed Green Coliseum next door, which also houses the basketball teams. Because of scheduling conflicts with the men’s and women’s basketball programs at the Coliseum, however, the University opened the new volleyball-only venue – entering the 2022 season Southern Miss is 16-11 at home since the opening of the Wellness Center.


Food & Beverage 2

The Wellness Center features one concessions stand in the lobby at the main entrance. The basics are sold and are fairly cheap; hot dogs, hamburgers, and nachos at $4, with popcorn, pretzels, and assorted candies at $3. Coke is the official soft drink provider of Southern Miss Athletics with a souvenir cup costing $5, or you can get a 22 oz soda for $4 or Smartwater for $3. Alcohol is usually sold at Southern Miss sporting events, but not at volleyball matches.


Atmosphere 3

The opening of Southern Miss Wellness Center has brought a revitalization to the lowly volleyball program and brings a much more intimate atmosphere than the Coliseum did. The main problem with Reed Green Coliseum was that it is just too large to host the volleyball program. Matches were often played with fans spread out throughout the building, and the volleyball program was secondary to the men’s and women’s basketball teams.


From the outside Wellness Center is a large barn-shaped brick and tin structure located right next to the Coliseum. There is one main entrance on the west side of the building with a ticket booth. As soon as you enter there is a small lobby with one concessions stand and restrooms, as well as stairs that go up to a suite and to the coaches’ offices. The open-area suite area is quite large for a volleyball-only arena, but features a TV and several chairback seats overlooking the court. The suite area is open to members of the Eagle Club and season ticket holders only.


Inside the building you can definitely feel the newness here as the court is well glossed with the giant Southern Miss logo at midcourt. The acoustics are really nice, as the music and sound echo off the tin roof pretty nicely – it can get quite loud in here and you can actually hear the music from the parking lot as you walk up to the building. The court faces east and west with 11 rows of black plastic chair seating on both sides of the court. On the east far end of the court is a rather large videoboard that shows replays and promotional videos. The team benches and scorer’s table are located on the south side of the court with a pretty cool LED board that runs in front of the scorer’s table.


Neighborhood 3

Hattiesburg (a.k.a. the Burg) is a decent-sized city of about 50,000 people, so it has everything you could want in a city and still retains that college town feel. The Burg has a wide selection of bars and restaurants, but unlike most college towns they are not located near each other – instead they are spread out all over town. Within walking distance of the Wellness Center you’ll find places like Patio 44, Brewsky’s, and 4th Street Bar – if you’re looking for vintage Southern Miss memorabilia on the walls of a hole in a wall then 4th Street Bar is your place, while Keg & Barrel, Porter, and Nostalgia are all popular places closer to downtown. As a southern city Hattiesburg has its fair share of restaurants centered on the local fare; other popular spots include Crescent City Grill, Brass Hat, Midtowner, Chesterfields, Ed’s Burger Joint, Stricks, and Murky Waters BBQ.


As one of Mississippi’s largest cities there is plenty to do for all ages. For families there’s the Hattiesburg Zoo and the Pocket Museum, which is located in an alleyway next to the Saengar Theatre downtown. The Pocket Museum is Mississippi’s tiniest museum, and each month the museum changes to a different theme. If you come to a volleyball match during October make sure you check out the spooky Halloween display that is spread out throughout the alley and at the Zoo. For shopping there are plenty of chain stores as well as the Turtle Creek Mall. Or, if you are into the outdoors there is the Long Leaf Trace, a 44-mile bike trail that runs right through campus right next to the Wellness Center, while Paul B. Johnson State Park just south of Hattiesburg is an excellent place for camping.


Fans 2

The fan base at volleyball matches is mostly a mix of friends and families, but with a small student section located behind the scorer’s bench. Also with many of the Sun Belt schools located within a few hours driving distance of Hattiesburg, expect a small group of visiting fans on the north side bleachers. The Golden Eagles average about 300 fans per match which is about average for this level of college volleyball, but 300 fans at a small venue like this looks a lot better than when the volleyball program played at the cavernous Coliseum where the venue would look completely empty. It’s also a lot more of an intimate setting here, as all the seats are much closer to the court, with the furthest row being about 20 feet from the playing court.


Access 4

There is a reason Hattiesburg is nicknamed the Hub City, as it one of the most accessible cities in the state. Conveniently located about an hour and a half from the Coast, New Orleans, Jackson, and Mobile, Hattiesburg sits right in the middle of it all. You will not miss the campus as you come into Hattiesburg as it is located on the corner of Highway 49 and Hardy Street, two of the busiest roads in town.


The Wellness Center is located on the north side of campus right next to Reed Green Coliseum and the beach volleyball facility, and directly across the street from Pete Taylor Park, the school’s baseball stadium. For some of the Friday afternoon matchups, make sure you park in the public lots to avoid getting a parking ticket if you park before 5 pm. The public lots for parking are located to the west of the Wellness Center, or you can use the large parking lot across the street at Pete Taylor Park. Or, if you come on a weekend you should have no problem parking at any lot on campus. The Southern Miss campus is also one of the smallest D1 colleges in the country, only one square block, so you should have no problem parking anywhere on campus and walking to the Wellness Center.


Return on Investment 3

Tickets are sold for $5 from the ticket office at the main entrance. You can also purchase season tickets for $30, which is considered a great deal since during the 2022 season the Golden Eagles played nine home games, which would save you $15. You also have access to the suite area with a season ticket purchase as well, so I considered this a great return on investment.


Extras 3

Southern Miss is one of two Sun Belt programs that play in buildings specifically built for volleyball. The rest play either play in the school’s basketball arenas or at old basketball arenas on campus.


Another extra for the Eagle Club suite located on the second level overlooking the court. The Eagle Club is a membership-based scholarship fund whose mission is to provide scholarship funds for the nearly 400 student athletes at Southern Miss. There are different levels of the Eagle Club, each with their own perks depending on how much you donate.


The school also has a beach volleyball team that began its first season in 2019, and plays right next door to the Wellness Center during the spring months. Many of the same girls who play regular volleyball also play beach volleyball as well.


There was a lot of controversy surrounding the building of the Wellness Center regarding where the funds came from to build it. With a reported cost of $7 million to build the facility, the Wellness Center allegedly received at least $5 million from the State of Mississippi’s welfare funds. Regardless, the Wellness Center remains an excellent place to watch a college volleyball match, if not one of the finest volleyball-only arenas in the country. With a new coach, new conference, and a new facility to call home, big things are on the horizon for the Southern Miss volleyball program.

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