By ROBBIE WARD
Daily Journal Starkville Bureau
STARKVILLE - It looks like muddy goo now, but by the time students return in the fall, the space south of Davis Wade Stadium at Mississippi State University will be transformed into the campus' largest park.
During the 2006 football season, the traditional tailgating area south of the football field will look more like an official gathering spot, instead of a patch of grass between two major streets.
Walking along the construction perimeter last week, senior merchanical engineering major Jeff Ellis pointed to where the grassy area and trees are expected to be in August.
Ellis, a member of MSU's Student Association, knows what's happening because it was his idea. "My dream was to bring everybody together," he said.
School officials embraced the idea, which fit into the campus master plan for a greener, more pedestrian-friendly university.
MSU has allocated $500,000 to create the park, named "The Junction," reminiscent of MSU's early days with rail.
On home gamedays, most students tailgate throughout campus. Ellis said the new park will be a place for alumni and students to mix and mingle.
Players will cross the park on the "Dog Walk," a walkway between the football stadium and Dorman Hall. Ellis expects the sight of football players walking through the park and other aspects of the "The Junction" to encourage more students to attend games.
"The more reasons you give students to get out of the dorm or apartment on a Saturday, the more likely they'll go to the game," he said.
Other uses for the park
Besides tailgating, the park will be used for events throughout the year.
Ray Hayes, MSU vice president for finance and administration, said the plan also serves to connect the university with Starkville.
Directly west of the park off campus is Russell Street, a route to downtown. Russell Street also has construction for condominiums marketed toward MSU alumni.
"The whole concept is to link the middle of campus to downtown," Hayes said.
Although funding to build "The Junction" is available, the campus landscaping budget is tight for landscaping. Seth Robbins, a member of the MSU Student Association, is spearheading a $10,000 fundraising campaign for trees.
The park's name, "The Junction," reflects the university's history with railways. During the early days when MSU was Agricultural and Mechanical College of Mississippi, many students and faculty caught the train that ran through campus. Trains ran through campus as late as the 1960s.
The park's name also pays homage to the five-point intersection, commonly termed "Malfunction Junction," notorious for traffic congestion. Construction recently corrected the intersection.
"We felt like that was an infamous part of Mississippi State history," Ellis said. "By naming it The Junction,' it'll be a way for that history to live on."
Contact Robbie Ward at 323-9831 or firstname.lastname@example.org.