Booneville, Miss. – Northeast Mississippi Community College's "Field of Dreams" campaign for its baseball and softball programs will become a reality in the very near future.
The Northeast Board of Trustees officially approved a bid for a brand new state-of-the-art athletic complex during their monthly meeting for June on the Booneville campus.
"The new complex will provide our student-athletes with a quality facility to practice and play in," said Northeast president Ricky Ford. "This makes a statement that Northeast is serious about winning and providing great opportunities for our student-athletes.
"Northeast is committed to not only enhancing our campus, but the community as well. We look forward to making this fine facility available to our supporting counties and high schools."
It will mark the first time in either programs history that they will compete inside an on-campus venue. Both baseball and softball have utilized a long-standing and successful partnership with Booneville City Park.
Baseball has played its games at Harold T. White Field since its construction in the late 1980s. Softball moved to its present location at David Carnell Memorial Field while still playing slow-pitch competition in 1997.
"I think it's a game changer," said Northeast athletic director Kent Farris. "It's something that's been a long time coming. We've thoroughly enjoyed the facilities that we've been using and we appreciate everything the City of Booneville has done in conjunction with us. But it's time for us to move on.
"I know our administration and coaching staff is excited to take on this endeavor. This is going to put us on a different level. I don't know of any facility in this state or maybe even nationwide that can compete with it. It's going to be absolutely fabulous."
Northeast's Board of Trustees, which represents the college's five-county district, accepted the bid of McCarty King Construction Company of Tupelo for $8.16 million. The architect for the project was AERC Architecture from Hernando.
"Our administration with the support of the college board and donors made a commitment to ensure we have the facilities to provide a great environment for our student-athletes," Northeast head softball coach Jody Long said.
"I get goose bumps just thinking about it. This place will simply be phenomenal. The design and thought are for the future. Everybody in Mississippi knows how beautiful our campus is. There is no exception with this facility."
The new complex will be located on a parcel of land owned by the college that is surrounded by Coach Billy Ward Drive on the north, Third Street on the west, Northeast's buildings and grounds facility to the east and Booneville Funeral Home to the south.
Fans will enter the facility at the mezzanine level before descending down to field level seating. The entrance will be beside a two-story building that houses concessions, restrooms and a ticket booth on the first floor plus a working pressbox on the second floor.
Both stadiums will include reserved chair backs with 42 seats for baseball and 35 for softball. Total capacity for the baseball field is set at 248 while softball's maximum seating is 200.
Each field will feature artificial turf surfaces, which means fewer postponements due to the poor weather that plagues Hill Country in winter and early spring. Other highlights are bullpens outside the playing area, new scoreboards and lighting that meets NCAA specifications.
The student-athlete experience will increase significantly with the addition of a new locker room between the two stadiums and an indoor hitting facility beyond the outfield walls.
The locker rooms will connect to the home dugouts, which are on the first base side for baseball and the third base line for softball. They will also contain a players' lounge and offices for the coaching staffs.
The indoor hitting facility features multiple batting cages and an area where pitchers or other student-athletes can throw in the event of inclement weather. It also provides a location for the storage of maintenance equipment.
A new parking lot will allocate 141 spaces plus places for the buses of visiting opponents. Additional parking, if necessary, would be available across Coach Billy Ward Drive at the Armory complex or at nearby Tiger Stadium.
"There's so much excitement about it," said Northeast baseball headman Richy Harrelson. "We're about to have one of the nicest facilities in the United States. It's going to be a great thing for the school and the City of Booneville.
"President Ford and our entire administration have done an outstanding job in this process. We've got recruits, players and former players asking about it. We can't wait to use this to help grow Northeast."
Construction on the new stadiums is anticipated to begin within the next two months and be completed in time for the 2020 season. An official groundbreaking ceremony will also be held on location at a date still to be determined.
The Northeast Development Foundation played an integral part in this venture with its "Field of Dreams" campaign. It raised approximately half a million dollars for this project through donations from local businesses and individuals.