Booneville, Miss. - Northeast Mississippi Community College is preparing to celebrate one of the biggest moments in not just the history of its athletic department, but of the entire institution as well.
An official groundbreaking ceremony for Northeast's "Field of Dreams" campaign is scheduled for Thursday, August 23 beginning at 10 a.m. on the Booneville campus.
The festivities will take place on the construction site of the new state-of-the-art facility at the intersection of Coach Billy Ward Drive and Third Street, which is adjacent to Northeast's Armory complex and Booneville City Park.
Northeast president Ricky Ford will address the crowd alongside other distinguished guests. Among the list of dignitaries are representatives from McCarty King Construction Company, Cook Coggin Engineers, the Northeast Board of Trustees, elected state and local government officials plus donors for this project.
The general public, especially alumni of the baseball and softball programs, is also invited to attend this momentous occasion. A limited amount of seating will be available on the morning of this event.
Those that cannot attend the groundbreaking can watch it live on www.nemcctv.com on any computer, smartphone or tablet. This special broadcast will include interviews with baseball head coach Richy Harrelson and softball headman Jody Long.
"It's gonna be awesome," said Harrelson. "This shows the state of Mississippi and surrounding states how serious we are about our athletic programs. It's going to set a new standard for junior college baseball in this state.
"It's also going to be a chance to honor the other coaches who have been here and our history. There have been a lot of guys that have sacrificed and done a lot of things for this program."
The Northeast Board of Trustees approved a bid of $8.16 million from Tupelo's McCarty King to build the "Field of Dreams" during their June meeting. The actual construction will begin three days prior to the commemoration on Monday, August 20.
Each playing surface will comprise of artificial turf with total seating capacities of 248 for baseball and 200 during softball contests. Other featured amenities are new scoreboards and lighting that meets NCAA specifications.
Three new buildings are in the plans for the complex, including a two-story pressbox that also holds ticketing and concessions on the first level, new locker rooms with players lounges plus an indoor hitting and throwing area.
This marks the first time in school history that either sport will compete inside an on-campus venue. Both baseball and softball have called Booneville City Park home since their foundation.
Baseball has played its contests at Harold T. White Field since it opened in the late 1980s while softball moved to what is now known as David Carnell Memorial Field near the end of its slow-pitch era in 1997.
"This is the biggest thing to happen to this program since the inception of fast-pitch," Long said. "It's going to be extremely special. This dream is finally coming to reality. I think this is the key component to putting us over the top."
The Northeast Development Foundation was a key factor in this venture with its "Field of Dreams" campaign. It raised almost half a million dollars for this undertaking through donations from local businesses and friends of the college.