Mississippi’s Historic Playing Fields

It’s football time again folks.  This reminded me of an excerpt of a news roundup from this spring

Rick Cleveland’s article “Hometown teams are what make Mississippi, Mississippi” highlights a Smithsonian exhibit that is about to begin touring Mississippi.

“In a half century of covering sports in Mississippi, this writer has seen first-hand the galvanizing effect of sports and hometown teams, from Little League, to high schools, to collegiate sports and beyond. I’ve followed the Payton brothers of Columbia, the Short brothers of Hattiesburg, the Manning family of Drew, the inimitable Ralph Boston of Laurel and so many others. I watched Charlie Hayes play in the World Series, but before that I saw him play for a Hattiesburg team in the Little League World Series when his glove was almost as big as he was. Where but Mississippi could produce the likes of Money’s Willye B. White, who won a high school track meet by herself at age 11 and a silver medal in the Olympics at age 16? She competed in five different Olympics, the only American track and field athlete to have done so.”

. . . .
“Hometown Teams” explores this integral part of American life and “Hometown Teams” will tour Mississippi beginning this week and for the remainder of 2016.

Read more . . .

Perhaps add Gold Medal Olympian Brittney Reese to that list?  What other worthy Mississippi athletes can you think of that have a historic sporting field associated with their notable accomplishments?

The article got me thinking about the stadiums, gymnasiums, coliseums, and ball fields where our hometown teams have played. Researching the MDAH Historic Resources Database, I find that only three football stadia, Tiger Stadium in Jackson, the Magnolia Bowl in Columbus, and Ray Stadium in Meridian, all Depression-era concrete structures, are listed on the National Register.  While both the Magnolia Bowl and Tiger Stadium are designated as Mississippi Landmarks, it is my understanding that the Magnolia Bowl is no longer a school stadium and was recently brought back from the brink of destruction.

Gymnasiums fare a little better, with about 21, by my count, either listed on the National Register or designated as Mississippi Landmarks. No coliseum or baseball field has received a historic designation, as far as I can tell. If these places are that important to being Mississippi, I guess those numbers seem low to me. What do you think?

Maybe consider starting a petition to pass around at your next sporting event?  Lots of folks might like the idea of their hometown stadium being one of the first and few places recognized for historic significance.

Categories: Architectural Research, Columbus, Cool Old Places, Historic Preservation, Jackson, Meridian, Oxford, Schools, Universities/Colleges


7 replies

  1. Just submitted Ray Stadium to the Living New Deal Project this past weekend! Nice post about sporting venues!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Even though football has dominated high school sports in Mississippi since the 1970s or so, my impression has been that before schools were consolidated during integration, basketball and baseball, which required smaller numbers of players, were the pride of most high schools in the state. If that’s true, and I’d love for someone more knowledgeable to tell us so, then it seems only reasonable that there would be more historic gymnasiums and baseball fields than football stadiums. (Sorry, I just can’t get my fingers to type the correct plurals for gymnasiums and stadiums, lIke you did, Thomas!) But I do love those 1930s concrete stadiums!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think your impression is correct. Anecdotally I’ve heard that the Detroit Tigers had a year or two of winter league in Gulfport although I’m not sure where the stadium was and that the Washington Senators played winters in Biloxi at a park designed by Carl Matthes that sat where the runways of Kessler AFB are now. Matthes himself played catcher for a local club team in the 1920s & from newspaper accounts was a decent player.


  3. Wonder why they called it Tiger stadium when it was home field for the Baily Panthers and, much later, Murrah Mustangs?


  4. Just found this while searching for something else but as of today the Magnolia Bowl may have been saved from being demolished but it is still in great disrepair. Columbus High played for the last time there in 1998 and to my knowledge it hasn’t been used since. The city is just letting it fall in. I wish I had to money to repair it myself. It would be neat to see the schools in Lowndes County play their rivalry games there. It would seat far more than any of High school fields in Lowndes County. The city is building an amphitheater on the island when I always thought the Magnolia Bowl would make a great amphitheater. Oh well. Just thought I would share.


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