By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
It’s an open weekend for the Mississippi State football team, but Bulldogs fans can get a look at some Maroon & White action this weekend at Tupelo’s Ballard Park.
The first Mississippi State Club Sportsfest is set for Friday through Sunday, with club team competition in four sports – ultimate frisbee, men’s lacrosse, men’s soccer and men’s rugby.
“We going to have five fields going, with four sports playing,” said Seth Gaines, Director of Sports Development for the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau. He’s been working since February to organize this event for interested club sports from MSU and, on Oct. 19-21, club teams from Ole Miss. “It’s a chance to see some non-traditional sports that fans in Tupelo don’t get a chance to see.”
Setting it on the weekend of the open date offers the additional opportunity “to see some kids with Mississippi State across their chests,” Gaines said, which has proven popular in Tupelo in the past when the Bulldogs’ club ice hockey team has played in town.
Admission is free.
The MSU club teams embraced the event as a fund-raiser, as the rival teams coming to Tupelo to play will pay an entry fee, while the clubs are getting the use of the facilities for free.
“The clubs saw it as a good opportunity for fund-raising and it allows Seth to fulfill his mission of bringing an interesting event to Tupelo,” said Julie Rhoads, an MSU graduate assistant who helps supervise the school’s intramural and club teams. A raffle for a basket of MSU items will also help with the fund-raising effort, Rhoads said.
There will be a soccer match on Friday night to open the event. The soccer teams in the field: MSU, Tulane, Kennesaw State, Southern Miss, Tennessee and North Alabama.
A highlight of the lacrosse schedule will be a match against Memphis at 5 p.m. on Saturday, with a clinic for young players – including the Tupelo High School club team – before the match.
The Ole Miss ultimate frisbee team will also be in attendance.
“I am pleased, very pleased, with the effort of the kids who are coming to participate and we only hope in grows in the future,” Gaines added. “Hopefully this will be good for Parks and Rec if his triggers some interest in these sports.”
If the MSU and Ole Miss club events are a success, there’s a chance of bringing a variation of the weekend events to Ballard Park in the spring.
“There’s always room for an event like this to grow, and hopefully we can add some women’s sports in the future,” Gaines said. “We told both schools that if they like the way this works out, we can see if we can arrange to have a fall date and a spring date.”