April 29, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Just behind Marshall's Shewey Building, they've been really cuttin' the rug on Monday and Tuesday.
That doesn't mean Athletic Director Mike Hamrick and Coach Doc Holliday are dancing their NIKEs off at Edwards Stadium.
AstroTurf LLC is spending the better part of two rain-soaked days removing the nine-year-old FieldTurf from the MU football home, and in a month from now, the Thundering Herd will have a new AstroTurf surface on which to play and practice.
AstroTurf is the contractor for the turf project, and the company has been cutting swaths of the old turf, rolling them and taking them on fork lifts to be loaded onto flatbed trucks to haul away the worn surface.
The new turf is a $750,000 project, and one that is overdue, said Scott Morehouse, Marshall's associate athletic director for facilities and game operations.
"We got our money's worth out of this one," Morehouse said while watching the old field being removed. "It was in here nine years, and eight is what you expect. Considering at most schools only the football program uses it for games and practices, we had football, baseball, men's soccer, women's soccer, softball and track and field using it at one time or another.
"We really did get our money's worth."
Morehouse said the new turf will mark the fourth resurfacing in the history of Edwards Stadium, which opened in 1991. The Herd is using AstroTurf's GameDay Grass MTO brand, the same surface that was installed as Hoops Family Field at the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex last year, and the same synthetic grass that will be the floor of the Herd's new Indoor Athletic Facility.
Morehouse said the old Edwards Stadium turf removed this week was part of an $851,000 project in 2005.
"This one is a different project," he said. "The last time, in 2005, we tore out the old AstroTurf, a real fine, low turf, took the crown off the field, dug that down, did the drainage, did a stone base.
"This time, we're basically just pulling the rug -- per se -- off the top. The stone base will stay in place, and we'll do a re-laser grade on that. We are adding conduits east-west across the field - in case we need any type of wiring, we can do that, because the conduits under there now are full. Then, we're putting the new turf on top of that."
Another part of the field project involves the grass hillside behind the south end zone, emblazoned with "Thundering Herd." That grass will be removed, and synthetic turf installed, with "Thundering Herd" in MU's script logo on that turf. The retaining wall between the hillside and the end zone stands also will be redone.
So, when will the Herd have a new football field in place?
"After they get the old turf out, we'll go out and do the trenching for conduits and do drainage testing to make sure everything is right with that," Morehouse said. "The new rug will go in, and I'm guesstimating, and weather is always a factor - by the second week of May, at the latest maybe a month from now.
"Once the new turf arrives on-site, it will take about two weeks to do everything."
There has been plenty of speculation across Thundering Herd Nation about the "look" of the field. So?
It will be quite similar to what was there.
"The logos on the field will be almost identical to the old ones," Morehouse said. "We'll have the Marshall `block M' at midfield, with "THE HERD" in the middle of the M, in script (see the logo at the top left corner of HerdZone.com pages - an italic type face that MU Equipment Manager Rich Worner calls Thunder Font).
"The Conference USA logos, which were both located toward the home sideline (west stands), will be staggered, with one toward the home side and one toward the visitors' side. But both will face toward the camera platforms (and the pressbox) for TV.
"And on the old turf, those conference logos were white. The new ones will be the C-USA branding logo, in their red, white and blue."
The word "MARSHALL" will emblazon both end zones as it has on the old turf.
Morehouse said the new turf also comes with an eight-year warranty. And with the Indoor Facility going up as an alternative, the Edwards Stadium won't get as much play from sports besides football starting next fall.
Morehouse said that through the contract with AstroTurf, the old turf belongs to the contractor, and it is up to the company to distribute or dispose of it through recycling as the company so desires - in other words, no pieces will be sold by Marshall to fans who might want it.
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Asked for an update on the construction next to the stadium, Morehouse said the target for opening the Indoor Athletic Facility remains Labor Day weekend of this year.
The other pieces of the $34 million project -- $24 million is coming in private funding through the Vision Campaign - will open later.
The power was shut off for six hours in the nearby Shewey Building on Tuesday so the IAF could be connected to the main power grid.
"We're pouring the concrete curbing for the nailer for the synthetic turf in the Indoor facility, and that is also the curbing for the track, so that's going in, too," Morehouse said. "The framing is continuing in the academic center; that's almost framed out now, and things there are moving along nicely."
Asked if the project remained "on schedule," Morehouse smiled as the rain continued.
"We're close," the Herd athletic facilities chief said. "Obviously, with the winter we had - probably the worst winter in Huntington in 30 years - we lost quite a few construction days with that, but crews are catching up on lost time."
Morehouse said the "open date" targets are Sept. 1 for the IAF, with the new academic center scheduled to open in January 2015. The translational sports medicine center is set to open in the summer of 2015.
The opening for the new MU Athletic Hall of Fame is set for the 2014 homecoming Game - Oct. 11 against Middle Tennessee.
The Herd also is resurfacing the six outdoor courts at the on-campus Brian David Fox Tennis Center.
"The asphalt is down over there, and the drainage is sloped, ready to go after we made some changes to that," Morehouse said. "The curb for the fencing is poured, and we're waiting for the court surfacing company. We'll do all six courts, and then the fencing goes back up and we're ready to go."