HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The following is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi
Major upgrades to practice facilities – which include a new viewing tower and synthetic turf – are striking a harmonious chord for everyone affiliated with The University of Southern Mississippi's marching band, The Pride of Mississippi.
The initial phase of the project – construction of the band tower – is currently underway on Pride Field and should be completed by late summer, weather permitting. The predominately brick structure features a 34-foot-tall tubular steel tower with two observation/teaching decks. The 1,600-square-foot facility also will include space to house instrument storage for the band as well as equipment for the Department of Recreational Sports.
Catherine Rand, director of bands at Southern Miss, cannot hide her enthusiasm for the new tower that also includes electricity, a built-in speaker system and water fountain – significant upgrades from the previous structure.
"The university has been talking about a new field and tower since I have been here, and it is so exciting to finally see everyone's hard work pay off," Rand said. "I know each member of the Pride will be so very proud to walk on the field for our first rehearsal. I can't wait to see the faces of our alumni. I know that they too will be so proud and honored to have the new Pride Field."
The project's second phase, set to begin following the 2016 football season, will include installation of synthetic turf on Pride Field, as well as wrought iron fencing with brick columns. The gated area will feature two 80-yard intramural fields.
Pride Director Jamie Standland, who marched in the Pride of Mississippi as an undergraduate student, has been actively involved in the tower/field planning process for the past three years. He notes that the benefits of this project are almost too plentiful to count.
"The tower has always been constructed from wood and has to be updated/rebuilt as the wood deteriorates. The new tower will require much less maintenance," Standland said. "Another very useful feature is that it will include two levels for viewing and teaching. This will be especially helpful when trying to diagnose issues in the Dixie Darlings and color guard, while the flow of the rehearsal will continue as directors will be located on a different level of the tower."
As for the synthetic turf? "The new field will allow us to rehearse for our Southern Miss halftime and pre-game performances, even when there have been heavy amounts of rainfall," Standland said. "We can make progress without having to slosh around in the mud and, at times, canceling rehearsal."
The 300-member strong Pride of Mississippi has routinely performed in esteemed events such as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Dublin St. Patrick's Day Parade, the London New Year's Day Parade and the Edinburgh Scotland Easter Celebration Parade.
Rand says the tower/field project sends a strong message to those who support the band program at Southern Miss.
"It shows the importance that the University places on The Pride of Mississippi and the students of Southern Miss," she said. "It shows each and every one of us that we count."