Over the past few seasons, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover some of UK’s SEC road games for KSR. Along the way, I’ve also been reviewing the venues across the SEC, and yesterday, I visited Mississippi State’s Humphrey Coliseum for the first time. Before we get rolling, here are my past reviews:
Humphrey Coliseum, aka “The Hump”
Seating capacity: 10,575
Like a lot of SEC basketball arena, The Hump was built in the 70’s and has gradually been renovated over time. With a capacity of 10,575, it’s the largest on-campus arena in Mississippi, and it will remain that even after Ole Miss’ new arena, The Pavilion, opens in December. The Hump lies at the center of Mississippi State’s athletics facilities, sandwiched between the baseball and football stadium.
The outside of The Hump isn’t terrible–the oval shape is classic and somewhere on there is the school seal. The design is nice, and I appreciate that they didn’t mess with that when they added on the 57,611 square foot, $11.2 million Mize Pavilion practice facility in 2011. The Mize Pavilion is adjacent to The Hump and was built from the same materials, albeit in a more modern style; however the two blend nicely together, and the Mize itself is gorgeous. More on that here in a minute.
Once inside, I was very impressed with The Hump. All of the 10,500 or so seats are chairbacks, a luxury lost on big arenas like Rupp. Because the arena is pretty small, there are no bad seats. I’m all about embracing one’s quirks, so I kind of love the bold “THE HUMP” at the ends of the court. It’s a great nickname, and come on, it’s Mississippi State basketball, so why not.
The concourses are still basic white-painted cinderblock, but part of the arena opens up to the Adkerson Atrium, a modern, airy entrance to the Mize Pavilion that kind of catches you off guard as you round the corner:
Because of the inclement weather, the announced attendance was only 6,795 (and that’s being generous), so I never noticed any congestion in the concourses. The oval shape of the arena helps that, although the concourses are pretty narrow and I would imagine they could get crowded during a sell out.
I almost feel like I should give Mississippi State an incomplete here. When I first heard of the genius that is the Dawg Snax in-seat food delivery system, I was excited. I daydreamed about fresh popcorn being delivered right to my seat with the flick of my phone. Unfortunately, Dawg Snax was not available last night, I guess because the staff was too busy mopping up muddy water and slush from the floors to deliver food. Whatever, fine. Of all the reasons to return to Starkville, getting to try Dawg Snax for the first time is probably the best one.
Even though I had to walk my lazy butt the 40 feet to the concession stand, the food was fine. Typical fare of popcorn, nachos, hot dogs, BBQ, candy, etc. There was a Dreamland BBQ station as well, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Hot dog price: $5
It was good, but nothing special. Not to be a popcorn snob, but I prefer buckets or bags to boxes. Boxes may be easier to carry around because they close, but they’re a little cumbersome when you’re also trying to run a live blog.
Signature food: 4
At concession stand three, you can get the famous Dreamland BBQ, which is certainly nice. The Alabama BBQ chain is extremely popular across the South, and for good reason. They also had smoked sausage available at some of the concessions stands, which is pretty unique for arena food.
Meh. I won’t go into detail, but they had those faucets that only run when you hold them on. Those annoy me.
Mississippi State got a brand new scoreboard this past summer and it is REALLY nice. Four huge LED screens with two LED ribbon boards underneath to show the score and stats. If UK agrees to stay at Rupp when the lease is up in 2017, for the love of God, put Bertha to rest and put in one of these.
PA System/announcer/music: 3.5
The music was a typical blend of pop and hip-hop. I got to the arena really early, so I got hear the whole spectrum, from Maroon 5 to Taylor Swift to Rick Ross. Whoever is in charge wisely uses the new scoreboard as much as possible, with lots of crowd shots, “cams,” and contests. Like many SEC schools, Mississippi State showed a lot of video features of the players, including interviews, games, and quizzes. I hear UK is showing clips from “This is Kentucky Basketball” show with Jennifer Palumbo during timeouts at Rupp, so at least we’re babystepping in the right direction.
Fun stuff: 4
There were lots of “cams”: the dance cam, the kiss cam, the cheer cam, a bizarre “chicken dance” cam, and my favorite, the “oblivious cam,” which would focus on people in the crowd not paying attention and keep a running clock of how long it takes them to realize they’re on the jumbotrons. There were also plenty of free t-shirts tossed out in the crowd, always a crowd pleaser
Pep band: 4
Lots of new stuff mixed in with the oldies. They played a rendition of “Happy” that I’m still not ashamed to say I danced to in my chair.
Halftime show: 3
Halftime got off to a weird start when Miss Mississippi came out and sang a show tune. After that, “Corey the Dribbler” performed, and he was alright. He’s apparently been on Letterman, SportsCenter, NBA on TNT, etc. etc., but last night was not his finest work. This video is much more impressive.
Mississippi State gave out a lot of free stuff, from towels to glow sticks/bracelets to schedules and posters. You know what people who live in the middle of nowhere, Mississippi love? Glow sticks and towels.
Ticket price: 3
For a rebuilding program, Mississippi State sure charges a lot for tickets. For non-SEC games, tickets start at $5, which is a great deal, but in SEC play, tickets are $20, even for the cheap seats. The Kentucky game? $35. Season tickets are $260 each, which is about average for an SEC school other than Kentucky.
Nice and helpful, especially given the weather.
Press area/meal: 4
They put the media in the President’s Room, which was very, very nice. We had a lovely meal of salad, green beans, red beans, sausage, rice, and cornbread. There was red velvet cake for dessert and tea and lemonade to drink. Two enthusiastic thumbs up. The media seating was in between the upper and lower levels near the student section and was fine, no complaints. Postgame press conference were held in a room in the Mize Practice Facility, and when I was walking down there, I walked by the UK locker room as all the guys were sitting down to listen to Cal. Slice had his suit jacket off and tie undone. Catching them in that state was a little awkward so I darted into the press conference room.
Student Section: 3
The Mississippi State student section is huge, one of the biggest I’ve seen at any venue. In that chart up there, they get all the space shaded in gray. Because of the weather, they were also the only people there besides UK fans, so the arena looked like this 30 minutes until tip:
Once the staff realized how bad that was going to look on TV, they allowed students to move to seats behind the benches, which made it look a lot better. The students themselves were pretty typical, all wearing black “STARK VEGAS” shirts and jeering the UK players during warm-ups. The players were not intimidated.
BBN Effect: 4.5
Like I said earlier, the crowd was Mississippi State students and UK fans, a true testament to the BBN’s devotion. The weather was awful in the hours before the game, causing several UK fans to get stranded en route, but blue always gets in. Cats fans infiltrated the student section early, some sneaking in with black shirts over their UK gear:
Needless to say, MSU students weren’t very happy about that. Kentucky fans continued to trickle in throughout the game, filling the seats behind UK’s bench so that at times, it looked like a UK home game on TV. A rousing “GO BIG BLUE” chant took over the arena for the last thirty seconds of the game, giving me chills:
GBB chant count: 3
In full disclosure, I didn’t get to tour campus because of the weather, but I did do a quick drive around. If there’s one thing Starkville and Mississippi State have going for them, it’s land. There’s all sorts of open space, probably because it’s in the middle of nowhere. Seriously, BFE is a more popular destination. For that reason, the campus is sprawling and has several grand entrances with rolling hills and giant parking lots. If you’re into that, it’s nice.
And then we get to Starkville itself. I like to see the best in things, especially if other people don’t. Part of that is a built-in defense of being from a state most consider a redneck hotbed. Years of enduring toothless/barefoot/kissin’ cousin jokes from the elitist East Coasters I went to school with gave me a tough skin and a soft spot for picked-upon places. So, I did my best to go into Starkville with an open mind, despite its reputation as the armpit of the SEC. Even so, I was not impressed.
In size, “downtown Starkville” reminds me of downtown Danville, which is odd considering it’s the home of Mississippi State, which has an enrollment of 20,000. Once you get past the strip malls, the Fred’s grocery stores, the Piggly Wiggly, the fast food restaurants and into that little downtown, you are left looking for more. Sure, there are nice areas–the Mugshots bar looks neat and there is some really beautiful Greek Revival architecture on a few buildings, but it’s like three blocks.
I have some friends who went to Mississippi State whom I love. “Find the Cotton District,” they said. “It is beautiful,” they said. Well, judging by the little block my Waze app directed me to, I don’t get it. Did they mean the giant “Cotton Crossing” shopping mall? The cluster of admittedly beautiful houses/apartments? Where are the restaurants? Am I lost? It was sleeting at the time and I had lukewarm Taco Bell in my lap waiting to be eaten, so yeah, I probably was lost. Oh well. If I ever go back to Starkville to try Dawg Snax, maybe I’ll find it.
Overall atmosphere: 1.5
The weather was definitely a factor on this trip. Between the sleet/snow and it being a weekday afternoon, Starkville didn’t get the fair shake it probably doesn’t deserve. Neither did The Hump. While the arena was nice, the atmosphere was very flat due to the small crowd. It’s not really their fault; if I lived in a town where it snowed 5″ and there were no snow plows and we going to get killed by Kentucky, I wouldn’t have risked life or limb to go either. That’s what TVs are for; in fact, aside from seeing the Cats move one step closer to history, that’s what could say about the entire trip.
Total score: 69/100
Auburn Arena: 84/100
South Carolina’s Colonial Life Arena: 77.5/100
Alabama’s Coleman Coliseum: 76.75/100
Florida’s O’Connell Center: 74/100
Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium: 71.5/100
Ole Miss’ Tad Smith Coliseum: 68.5/100