October 7, 2017 9:26:06 PM
STARKVILLE -- David Bryant ducks under an overhang, passes a slab of concrete still drying to his right and walks into a tunnel, immediately taking a left. His shoes crunch on the gravel beneath his feet until he hits the wood planks making up the floor of the tunnel.
He winds through, that first left followed by a right, to emerge on a clean patch of concrete, installed just a month ago. He's in the visitor's dugout; as he turns around, what will soon be the new Dudy Noble Field is being constructed.
Bryant is a project manager for JESCO, Inc., the company overseeing the two-year so-called renovation of Dudy Noble Field that is more or less a complete demolition and rebuild. On a busy Friday morning, The Dispatch took an exclusive tour of the construction site with Bryant to get an update on both the progress and the process of building the new stadium.
They've grown accustomed to passers-by trying to do the same.
"We get literally thousands of people coming by here, peeping over the fence. We've had instances where we've had people come on site," Bryant said. "The public really doesn't know the dangers of a construction site. We don't want anybody coming out here and getting injured."
The risk for injury starts with the massive steel bars hurtling through the sky.
Just one step beyond the fence into the construction site reveals the most obvious part of the construction: assembling the frame where he grandstands will be. This has already been completed for the grandstands down the right field line and crews are working on what will be behind home plate now; it all has to be done by Dec. 1, when the crane used for assembly is required to be moved off the field.
While that crew assembles the rest of the grandstands, the parts that are already in place are getting their concourse deck. Bryant described a concourse that wraps around the entire stadium, starting with the main seats around home plate that extends around the corners to the outfield, wrapping around the upper level of outfield lounges while feeding into the new right field plaza.
Bryant said crews started working on the decks for said concourse last Monday and already have 160 feet of metal down on both of the lower and upper decks. Eventually they will pour cement over it to create the walkway. As the grandstands continue to be assembled, the concourse path will follow and extend around to the third base side; the beginning stages of building that pathway around the outfield are underway.
Underneath those bleachers, the crew has already poured cement for a broadcast electronics center and for what will be the elevator. Bryant said everything else that will be under the bleachers -- tunnels from the dugouts along with other support amenities -- is not required to be done for the 2018 season, but, "we'd like to get ahead if we could."
Meanwhile, in the outfield, workers already have the structure for a bathroom plaza and the batter's eye up while woodworkers are installing the lounges. The lounges are being built behind an outfield wall that's a foot taller, Bryant said, now up to seven feet.
Those lounges with wood already in place are bordering the in-progress right field plaza. The brick columns are well on their way, just waiting for an extension of a few more feet before putting in the canopy and other dressings. The structure for the ticket office there is nearly complete, too. Before long, they will install the floor that will display the massive M over S logo with each county in the state engraved in a circle around it.
Bryant said the deadline for outfield work to be completed is Feb. 5; as he looked around at woodworkers applying sealant to the nearly completed lounges in left field, he said, "I feel very comfortable with that."
Also, crews finished an extension of the dugouts roughly a month ago, Bryant said, extending dugouts out roughly seven or eight feet. The dugouts in the new Dudy Noble will be much roomier than the predecessor.
For all the progress that's apparent to the passer-by, it's possible the most important development came dozens of feet below ground.
One of the first groups on the construction site was Burns Dirt, based in Columbus, with the job of installing the new drainage system, among other things, while leaving the old system in tact. They had to leave the old system in tact because of the valley in between Dudy Noble and Humphrey Coliseum: without some sort of drainage system in place, it stands to reason any water could have gathered there and potentially flooded The Hump.
"It's very time consuming, but you don't have time," Bryant said. "These guys have been busting their butts on this job, working seven days a week. It's been a tough one for some of them.
"JESCO appreciates the subcontractors, their efforts and their work. We can't express enough gratitude."
In the face of all the progress, the deadlines in the not-so-distant future loom. The Feb. 5 deadline set for the outfield extends to most of the project that is planned to be in place for the 2018 season, including barricading off where the concessions stands and restrooms will be in the finished product. (Bryant said there will be temporary facilities in their place for the 2018 season.)
With 120 to 130 workers on site on week days and roughly 40 on site on weekends, Bryant gives off no doubts about hitting those deadlines. As they believe in his office trailer just outside the construction site, you're only as good as your help.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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