July 24, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON - With the grand opening 30 days away, I got an up-close tour of Marshall University's new soccer home a couple of days ago.
I'll say this: It's so nice, there's nothing to kick about.
From the soccer-ball design plaza taking shape at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 26th Street to the Kelly green aluminum bleacher-backs and seat rows, to the big green landscape of the turf, the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex is special.
"It's going to be a great place for our coaches to work and our student-athletes to play," said Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick, who also walked through a construction site that is rapidly becoming the Herd's home of soccer. "Our fans are going to be really proud of what we've done here, too."
The project, in excess of $8 million, is one of the products of the ongoing Vision Campaign for MU Athletics. The stadium opens Aug. 23 with a doubleheader - the Herd men facing an Alumni Team in a 5 p.m. exhibition, followed by the Marshall women's regular-season opener against Campbell University at 7:30.
Single-game tickets for men's and women's soccer are on sale at the MU Athletic Ticket office (in the Cam Henderson Center). Single-game tickets are priced at $7 (adults), $5 (youth) and $3 (apiece for groups of at least 10).
Season tickets - for 23 men's and women's games - are on sale as well. Season tickets are $60 (adult), $50 (youth) and $40 (purchase of four or more seats).
"As far as sales to date, we are happy with where we are and we feel like we are building momentum for the season opener," said Tyler Crockett, Marshall's assistant director of ticketing. "There is a lot of excitement for the completion of the state-of-the art-facility, and that is evident in our season ticket sales thus far."
The site was the home of the Veterans Memorial Field House for more than six decades. The Herd's aged former basketball home had fallen into disrepair - but the memorial panel to veterans that graced the side of the old arena was preserved and hangs at the main entrance of the soccer stadium off Fifth Avenue.
Marshall also provided $100,000 to the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District for a half-acre children's playground dedicated to veterans. The public park stands adjacent to the complex, off Fourth Avenue.
The main entrance to the 1,006-seat stadium also will include a brick plaza. Herd soccer alumni may purchase bricks, with their names inscribed, for a minimum contribution of $1,000. Fans will have close access, under the stands, to restroom and concessions facilities, too.
"We wanted to have one of the nicest soccer facilities in the country and in Conference USA, and we're going to have that," Hamrick said. "It's going to mean a lot to our soccer programs, and I think we'll have more interest in Herd soccer than ever before."
The Herd soccer players will find that special care has been taken to make the Veterans Complex a home away from home for them.
From a glass-door entrance from the field into an equipment room, the men's and women's teams have their own locker rooms, training rooms and lounges. There also are visiting team and officials' locker rooms.
The Herd head coaches and assistant coaches also will have a separate entrance for their own offices, with additional space for graduate assistants to work. A conference room is adjacent to those offices.
Atop the stadium sits a large pressbox area that will accommodate TV, radio and print outlets.
Throughout the soccer building, walls are highlighted by sections of Kelly green, and rows of textured block bring a definition to the walls.
The main entrance plaza, at the corner of Fifth and 26th, is done is sections like that of a soccer ball. A sign similar to the one at the corner of Fifth and 20th - next to the Marshall Recreation Center - will grace the plaza along with plantings.
"We could have done this and done it not to this degree," Hamrick said. "But my feeling is if you're going to do something, do it well. We can host more than our soccer seasons here. We can use this facility for other tournaments that come to the area.
"This complex is going to be a big boost for soccer in the area, not just for our programs here at Marshall."
The opening of the Herd's new complex coincides with the realignment in C-USA that brings more soccer strength to the league.
Women's soccer in C-USA increases to 16 teams, with the Herd in an East Division with Charlotte, East Carolina, FIU, FAU, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion and UAB. The men's alignment grows to 10, and newcomers Charlotte, ODU and New Mexico were top 25 teams last season.
A new stadium also will help both Herd teams add to the home game schedules in future seasons. More opponents will be willing to come to Huntington and play on a first-rate surface with on-site locker room facilities.
"This soccer complex takes us another step to where we want to go in athletics," Hamrick said. "It's a big-time facility we have here. People are going to be impressed.
"I'm excited about the start of the season, and with the construction of the Indoor Athletic Facility with its track and field complex moving forward every day, we've got a lot to be positive about these days."
Yes, the Herd will be getting its kicks, on Route ... 60.