Jan. 17, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – The dirt moving and concrete pouring at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 26th Street is all about what Marshall soccer coaches hope the Herd displays at that site starting in August.
It’s about teamwork, about hustle.
Marshall is building a $6 million soccer complex that will be one of the nation’s finest for the sport, say officials of AECOM, the architecture and engineering firm known nationally for its design of sports facilities.
While AECOM (and its arm formerly known as Ellerbe Beckett) has designed plenty of striking NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA arenas and many college athletics venues, there is something singular about the Marshall project, which also includes a $14 million Indoor Athletics Facility funded by the ongoing Vision Campaign.
The dedication of the facility – the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex – to those who served their nation is one of the special features. The site was the 61-year home to the Veterans Memorial Field House, demolished last summer to make way for the soccer complex.
“I think what I would point to, and take personally, is the Veterans Memorial component of this thing,” said architect Brandon Liebst, project designer for AECOM on the Herd’s complex and indoor facility. “I’m particularly proud, very happy, that Marshall was able to work out that deal and we were able to save that unique element off the old building, and incorporate that.”
Liebst, who came to Huntington this week from AECOM’s Kansas City sports design offices for meetings at MU on the project, was referring to the dedication inscription panel to veterans of the wars that was on the side of the Field House – painstakingly removed when the building was turn down.
That piece, an inscripted pilaster (a slightly projecting column built into or applied to the face of a wall), will hang from the center of the brick facade of the complex, above the main entrance. The piece is currently locked in one of the university’s storage areas.
“We took great care to make sure we treated that special, got it off the building in one piece,” Liebst said. “We made sure we got it down and not have anything happen to it, and we basically built the design around that element, in terms of the way it’s going to be a focus, front the street there, Fifth Avenue, the presence it’s going to create.
“It’s something I’d say is unique, not a technical (design) or athletic thing, but I think it’s very important and it’s something Marshall should be very proud of. I know I am. My grandfather was a veteran, so it pleases me a lot that we were able to work it into the plans in this fashion.”
Liebst said no changes have been made to the plans for the 1,000-seat facility that is expandable by another 750-1,000 spectators. A park area, also dedicated to veterans, will be adjacent to the complex, which will include an enclosed spectator concourse with restrooms and concession areas. On-site parking will be available.
He said AECOM checked out several recent college soccer projects to have design concepts to present to MU officials.
Some reference points were facilities at Old Dominion, West Virginia, Michigan, Northern Kentucky (“a very, very nice facility,” he said) and Hope College, in Holland, Mich., where AECOM built a basketball arena several years earlier.
“This complex is going to have all of the bells and whistles,” Liebst said. “In terms on the amenities it offers, all is right there. I don’t foresee any delays. Weather, you never know, but that’s the only thing that could make a difference.
“It’s on target (for August completion for the 2013 Herd men’s and women’s seasons). I just came from the site and they are moving on it. There’s not a bunch of huge excavation. I was surprised, actually, how far along things are. They’ve just about got the foundation totally done, all around the perimeter.”
MIRC Construction of Putnam County is the general contractor.
“We had a site that was given to us, there’s plenty of room, easy to get in and out of for most part, up to this point, no challenges from a subgrade, didn’t find any hazardous materials underneath there that caused delays, anything like that,” the AECOM architect said. “It’s been a pretty clear site.”
Liebst said the quality of Marshall’s facility can play a part in the Herd soccer programs’ profile and performance, too.
“For players, it gives them a bit of a sense of ownership,” Liebst said. “It’s their home, their own locker rooms, training rooms. The coaches have their offices there. It’s their own home. I think that is something we’ve heard from various coaches, that it’s an important thing.
“They’re no longer having to share space and locker room with other teams, other players. This is theirs; it’s a psychological thing, and that can turn into play on the field. It’s all about creating a home that’s solely dedicated to soccer. Give those athletes a place that’s theirs, and it’s also a place to recruit, for future players.
“It kind of gives a face to the program, too.”
Liebst said Marshall coaches Bob Gray (men’s team) and Kevin Long (women’s) were consulted about the facility, and that most of their questions were similar to that of coaches at most schools – and dealt with the playing surface.
D.A. Hogan & Associates of Seattle is the playing field designer. The playing surface will be a version of Astroturf, with an eight-year warranty.
“It’s an artificial surface, with a very high-quality sub-grading drain system, and it kind of has best of both worlds,” Liebst said. “A lot of people like playing on natural grass. Well, this has a lot of the qualities of natural grass, but the benefit with the turf is it’s much easier to maintain and it’s more durable.
“The long-term upkeep, with a long-term warranty, makes it much easier for Marshall to take care of, without compromising anything from a playability standpoint.”
Liebst also said AECOM is nearing the completion of construction drawings on the indoor facility, which also will include the Sports Medicine Translational Research Center, a new academic center home for the Buck Harless Student-Athlete Program and museum room for the MU Athletic Hall of Fame.
“We’ve got about a month and a half to go (on drawings), but we’re on schedule,” he said. “There haven’t been any changes in the design; everything from the beginning is still there.”
Scott Morehouse, Marshall’s Associate Athletic Director for Facilities, said bid opening on construction of the indoor facility is scheduled for the end of March, with groundbreaking set for this spring. The target date for opening is August or September 2014.
Asked if there’s anything different from the AECOM vantage point about the Marshall complex and IAF project with its 120-yard football field and 300-meter, six-lane track, and Liebst answered, “Absolutely.”
It isn’t part of the complex or indoor facility design.
“What immediately comes to mind is the thing about a university environment is that it’s one university, but it’s made up of a lot of people that work in various departments -- athletics, facilities, administration, all these different pieces,” Liebst said. “And when we’re working on a project like this those different pieces are all involved, and they all have their own goals and their own wishes for the project.
“That’s one of our charges as the architect, to bring those people together and to hear the various people and hear what they want out of it, mesh it together. And sometimes when you do that, it’s based on how those people get along, how they work together without us being involved at all, what their relationships are like.
“And here, it’s just been great. I think you can tell that this is just a close-knit place and everybody works well together, everybody seems to enjoy working with everybody else. Frankly, it just makes our job way, way easier. And that’s fantastic.”