Jan. 17, 2014
By Jack Bogaczyk
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Well, there’s no doubt that the biggest thing to happen in Marshall athletics in recent weeks was a Military Bowl triumph by Coach Doc Holliday’s football team over Maryland, capping a 10-4 season.
I have absolutely no doubt what will be the next big thing to occur in Herd sports … and I mean really, really big.
It’s the Thundering Herd’s Indoor Athletic Facility, taking shape just east of Joan C. Edwards Stadium. If you stand inside of the shell that is progressing toward completion every weekday, you’d know what I’m talking about.
The Herd opened the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex last August, and the next pieces in the $30 million-plus athletic facilities enhancement to open will be the Indoor Facility and its adjacent MU Athletics Hall of Fame. A student-athletic academic center and sports medicine translational research center will follow.
The Vision Campaign -- nearing its goal, Athletic Director Mike Hamrick says -- is providing $20 million of the funding for the projects.
“We’re on schedule,” said Scott Morehouse, Marshall’s associate athletic director for facilities and operations. “And it’s stunning how big this place really is.”
It’s nearly 102,000 square feet that will boost Herd athletics into a new era, a centerpiece – and showpiece -- for the future of the MU program that’s arriving just as the Herd has an opportunity to step forward in a recast Conference USA.
Edwards Stadium also will get a new artificial turf surface this spring, a project that’s expected to commence immediately following the April 26 Green-White spring game. Morehouse figures that the project will cost in the $700,000-800,000 range, with completion by mid-June.
The Indoor Facility’s debut is what’s really anticipated, however.
“The schedule for ‘substantial completion’ is the beginning of August,” Morehouse said about the Indoor Facility. “‘Final completion’ is the beginning of September. When we have substantial completion, the space can be occupied, so we’ll be in there when they come in for two-a-days in football.
“And it also, obviously, will be available for use when school begins, when the track and field program arrives back, it will have an actual track surface on which to practice. So, we’re excited about that – a 300-meter, six-lane track with eight-lane straightaways.”
While it would seem football will get the most use of the new digs, it will be a “net” gain for all Herd sports.
“It’s a 120-yard football field, full length, with goalposts,” Morehouse said. “The goalposts are retractable. They’ll be lowered down on wenches, and the crossbar (with uprights above, and no support post, obviously) will stop at the regulation height. When they’re done using them, we flip a key and they go back up to the ceiling and out of the way.
“A netting system will go all the way around the facility. There will be a golf net for hitting that goes across the entire facility at the 50-yard line. There will be baseball and softball batting cages (at the south end of the facility, near the east end of the M Club Alley), and all are retractable.
“All of it drops down, and when (practice is) done, the nets are pulled back up, and then we can have a fully functional track competition in here. We have throwing areas for the track in the corners. We’ll have portable runways and pits for the jumps that will go inside the oval on the football field.”
Recently, a helicopter moved all the roofing panels that couldn’t be elevated by crane to the top of the structure. The wall panels continue to go up on the east and west sides and some the brick facade at the bottom of the facility is installed.
“The stone base of the floor (no concrete slab) is going down inside, in preparation for the synthetic turf installation and track surface installation,” Morehouse said. “Those (turf projects) will be two of the last things we do.
“We’ll have three platforms on the walls. A south camera platform, an east camera deck, for scoring for track meets, and there also will be a north camera balcony that steps out from the recruiting room in the academic center.”
Morehouse said the projections include an opening of the 1,500-foot, high-ceilinged Hall of Fame by this September “so our fans can get in there and see it this football season … That’s a projection. We’re hoping.”
Then, there’s what Morehouse and project contracts call “Area B” … the rest of the story.
“On Area B, the sports medicine center (nearly 20,000 square feet, first floor), academic center (14,000 square feet, second level), Hall of Fame area, the structural steel is going up at the north end of the Indoor Facility,” Morehouse said. “The northeast corner, where the steel is up now, is for the academic center and sports medicine center.
“We’re projected for an academic center opening in January 2015, one year from now. For the sports medicine research center, we’re projecting an opening of late summer or fall semester of 2015.”
Between the stadium east stands and the indoor facility – next to and behind Pruett Training Center and Dunfee Weight Room, there will be a parking lot for about 50 cars, and a grass strip the Herd will use on home football game dates for marketing partner IMG to allow clients to set up a “corporate tent village,” Morehouse said.
Morehouse said Marshall continues to work with D.A. Hogan & Associates -- one of the top architectural, consulting and engineering firms on athletic turf projects -- on the Indoor Facility turf and track and the new stadium surface. The Seattle company also helped develop the Hoops Family Field at the new soccer complex.
Morehouse said the Indoor Facility will get Astroturf, as did the soccer complex, “but a slightly longer fiber in the indoor facility.”
Meanwhile, the stadium turf job won’t be quite as intensive as it was nine years ago, when the Edwards Stadium field was last replaced.
“We’re into survey work right now for the stadium,” Morehouse said. “If everything goes as planned, we hope to start the new turf project as soon as the April 26 spring game is over, on April 28.
“We’d like to have it completed by the beginning to middle of June. We don’t need to do the stone base over. The last time we pulled the crown off the field. There’s really not so much to do this time, run a conduit under there, grade the stone again make sure the subsurface is perfect, lay the rug.”
So, there’s a lot more than football’s success to fuel the Herd’s anticipation about 2014 and beyond.