New practice facility promises to elevate performances
The University of Mississippi’s Pride of the South band is marching with renewed enthusiasm on its new $5.4 million practice field — a replica of Hollingsworth Field, the playing surface at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
The practice field features drainage structures and lights, a director’s tower, a fence, a storage building and proper field access. Construction began in August 2022 and was completed in a year.
Chancellor Glenn Boyce dedicated the facility on Tuesday, August 29, 2023, with donors, university leaders, and band members on hand.
“Thanks to the dedicated donors and supporters who inspired this world-class practice field, we’re excited to usher in a new era for our 300-plus talented band members who work hard every day to contribute to the university’s spirit and pride,” Boyce said.
“We’re committed to supporting and fostering the success of all of our students, and this new field enhances the meaningful opportunities and experiences that our students gain as members of the Pride of The South. They deserve this investment in them.”
The university’s commitment paired with major gifts to the project. Among donors whose combined gifts totaled $330,000 were Susan and Dr. Brett R. Bartlett, of Oxford; Kirsten and Ryan Hill, of Sachse, Texas; Linda and Alex MacCormack, of Tampa, Florida; Diane and Steve McKinney, of Hoover, Alabama; Helen Overstreet, of Oxford; Risa and Sumner Spradling, of Browns Summit, North Carolina; and the estate of Cora Mitchell, of DeKalb.
Nancy Maria Balach, chair of the Department of Music, said she believes the field will be the nation’s best when the whole project and accompanying landscaping are completed, adding to the university’s reputation as being the best place to study music education.
“The identity of the Pride of the South is outward-facing,” Balach said. “To now have a field that facilitates that greatness is profound.
“The support means so much to our department and to the legacy of the Pride of the South. It actually puts the ‘pride’ in the Pride of the South.”
Randy Dale, associate director of bands and director of athletic bands, said he feels “fortunate and blessed” to work with the 310-member band.
“We’re getting to practice the way that we will actually perform in the stadium on game days,” he said. “Our product will be put together and more polished than ever before. Morale is very high.”
Drum majors Marcus Davis, of Tupelo; Scott Grimes, of Corinth; and Jenni Weeks, of Pearl, already see an elevated sense of purpose among band members.
“The new facility has completely changed the atmosphere and allowed everyone to incorporate an attitude of gratitude out here,” said Grimes, a senior music education major.
Davis, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, agreed, saying, “People are so happy and excited, and the energy is very evident in the way we perform, march and play. This season, I expect our performance to be miles better than where we’ve been because of the consistency of this field with its lines and coordinates.”
Weeks, a sophomore music major, shares that optimism.
“The first day I walked out on this field, it felt like I was stepping foot in the stadium,” she said. “It made me feel so excited and ready to get this season going. We’ve moved a lot faster this year (with practice). I know we will be more equipped and better prepared.”
Grimes’ gratitude extends to the many supporters who made the new field a reality.
“We appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts,” he said. “You will not be disappointed at what’s coming soon, so get ready.”
The last phase of the construction — an observation deck and landscaping — is in progress.
By Tina H. Hahn