June 1, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – So, you’re sitting toward the mid- to upper reaches of the Henderson Center at a Marshall basketball game, thinking about how nice the Herd has made it for those courtside seating patrons.
You’re wondering when you’ll be able to enjoy a game without getting as hot or red in the face as Tom Herrion, or trying to listen to announcements that sound like they’re coming from Charlie Brown’s teacher.
You know on those Peanuts’ TV shows, the “Wha-wha-wha-wha-wha.”
Your wait is over.
With a $405,000 sound system upgrade, the Herd’s 9,054-seat home for men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball will be a much more comfortable place to watch the action, no matter where you sit.
Testing on the just-completed sound system upgrade is ongoing this and next week, said Scott Morehouse, Marshall’s associate athletic director for operations and facilities.
“We have all new JBL Line Array speakers,” said Morehouse, whose Shewey Center office makes more room for blueprints from various Herd athletics building and upgrade projects than his desk. “The amplifiers are new and we’ve installed acoustic drapes in the upper bowl to distribute the sound evenly. The difference is amazing.
“We’ve done renovations to the control room, and we’ve got an extended maintenance contract of five years, instead of the usual one year on something like this. There also are special speakers for use at graduation.
“We’ve also done speakers on the concourses, so when fans leave their seats to go to the concession stands, they’ll be able to hear the radio broadcast and keep up with the game.”
Yes, Morehouse confirmed, the Thundering Herd/IMG Sports Network broadcast “Voice of the Herd,” veteran Steve Cotton, will even be able to be heard in the Henderson Center rest rooms.
The PA system improvements will turn a basketball game night into a more pleasurable experience, Morehouse said. The upgrade also has provided Herd Athletic Director Mike Hamrick with a needle he continues to use repeatedly on longtime PA voice Mike Kirtner.
“The good news is we’re upgrading the sound system in the Henderson Center so you can hear Mike Kirtner,” Hamrick says. “The bad news is we’re upgrading the sound system in the Henderson Center so you can hear Mike Kirtner.”
Morehouse said a garbled Kirtner call is history.
“The No. 1 thing people will notice immediately is the clarity of the sound,” Morehouse said. “We’ve been able to focus and direct the sound, and get that sound to the very top of the arena. Before up there, you’d get that so-called Charlie Brown teacher voice.
“Nobody could understand what was being said. Now, we have basically the same type of speakers that are used at major concerts, and the clarity of the PA will be helped by the bass in the system, too.”
In tandem with the sound reinforcement system work, alterations to the air ventilation system came at a cost of $60,000. The Henderson Center arena is not air conditioned, but Morehouse explained that the new air handling system will bring comfort to spectators who have often sweat through a game while seated in the upper part of the arena.
“What we’ll be able to do now is bring in the outside air and mix it with the inside air and maintain the temperature at 70 degrees throughout the building,” Morehouse said.
“It’s going to be Herd Heaven in there instead of Herd Hell,” Hamrick quipped.
Among other recent changes in “The Cam,” those aforementioned 48 courtside seats were sold out last season at $1,350 apiece. All lower bowl reserved tickets were sold on a season basis, too. The Herd sold 4,010 men’s basketball season tickets overall, a high for the program since 1995-96, the last season for Coach Billy Donovan on the MU sidelines.
The ticket that should get a boost this season is the general admission season seat that the Herd began to sell two years ago. The first season, 35 were sold. Last season, the number spiked to 170, at $100 for 17 games.
With the enhanced sound system and more comfortable temperatures in the upper level – and Herrion expected to have a Conference USA contender again – Herd associate AD and ticket chief Aaron Goebbel figures that reasonably priced seat will now be much hotter than the fans in the upper rows.
The sound system redo and air handling system upgrade follow two previous years of enhancements to the hoops and volleyball home that will reach its 32nd season in the 2012-13 school year.
David Steele, Marshall’s associate AD for administration and business, said the recent $465,000 expenditure adds to the new roof and entrance paving jobs of last summer, at a price tag of $1.129 million. That followed the so-called “scoreboard project” of 2010-11, which brought new lights, a replay system, graphics (inside and out), ribbon boards, spotlights and a new scorer’s and media table for a total of $520,000.
So, in Hamrick’s three years as the Herd AD, the Henderson Center has gotten $2.114 million in renovations. That doesn’t include the major locker room renovations, which were finished prior to that.
As is often said in major college athletics, if you’re not building, you’re falling behind.
Marshall is building for its basketball and volleyball programs off the floor as well as on it.
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In a follow-up, the Thundering Herd’s recent “garage sale” of apparel and shoes on May 19 was a profitable day.
Steele said the sale brought in about $20,000 for Herd athletics, up $3,000 from the last such effort two years ago.
The guess is there’s likely to be another sale next year. Equipment managers Rich Worner and Zac Littleton said only about 25 percent of what was available was sold, so much of what was left has gone back into storage for another green “clearance” day.