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Marshall University's new athletic center takes shape

By John Gibb

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The city skyline is changing as a new state-of-the-art facility is being constructed on the campus of Marshall University.

The final truss was being installed on a new indoor athletic facility late last month with construction directly behind Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

When finished, the facility will feature a full-length football field, an eight-lane (300 meter) NCAA track for hosting women's meets, batting cages for both baseball and softball, as well as portable tennis courts for indoor matches.

The length of the facility will be about 120 yards and nearly 1,000 seats will be placed trackside. The facility is 70 feet high in the center and 50 feet high on the sides. The track will be designed to accommodate long jumps, discus throws and meter dashes.

Ron May, director of facilities planning and management at Marshall, allowed the Daily Mail to get a firsthand glimpse of the construction site and the progress being made.

"We are very excited," May said. "It's neat to see our vision take shape. When this indoor practice facility is built, it will be one of the best in the nation."

In addition to the indoor athletic facility, an academic center, the Sports Medicine and Translational Research Center and the Athletics Hall of Fame will be adjoined. The entire project is phased, meaning each entity has its own completion timetable. It is estimated the project will cost $25 million. J & H Erectors from Portsmouth, Ohio, is the general contractor for the project.

Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said the facilities are much needed.

"We have no quality place for athletes to focus on their academics, nor do we have a place for our track team to meet. Our women's track team currently practices in the hallways of the Henderson Center," Hamrick said. "When finished, this facility will be the best in the country. There may be some that are comparable but nothing can beat this."

The 105,000-square-foot indoor athletic facility and 2,000-square-foot hall of fame atrium are slated to be finished first. May said those facilities should be completed in August. The academic center should be completed three months later and the research center should be completed a few months after that. The entire facility is to be 100 percent operational by the spring 2015 term.

The athletic facility is several yards away from the Joan C. Edwards stadium to accommodate additional stadium seating in the future. May said the stadium was designed to add an additional 10,000 seats if needed.

The projects are part of Marshall's Vision Campaign, a campaign that began in 2011 and is dedicated to raising funds for the facilities. Chad Pennington, former Marshall athlete and NFL quarterback, and Mike D'Antoni, former Marshall athlete and current Los Angeles Lakers head coach, are the co-chairmen for the Vision Campaign and both have substantially donated towards it.

Matt Turner, Marshall's chief of staff, said the Cline Family's gift of $5 million in 2011 was matched by the Bucks for Brains program. Those funds will be used to staff and support the Sports Medicine Translational Research Center.

"Due to the nature of that gift, it can only be used toward the research center," Turner said. "Most of the funds needed for this project come from private donations. It's incredible to see the monetary support we're getting from private donors. We still got a ways to go, so we're still seeking donors."

The academic center will be home to Marshall's Buck Harless Student-Athlete Program and will feature top-of-the-line computer stations.

The sports medicine facility will contain advanced equipment for the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of sports injuries. Doctors from the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, as well as Marshall's athletic training staff will have access to the resources at this facility.

Hamrick said the Athletics Hall of Fame will be dedicated to all the former student athletes who have attended Marshall.

"We've had a lot of talented student athletes come through here and this atrium will allow us to showcase those athletes," he said. "This will be a game-changer."

In addition, the Vision Campaign raised funds for additional suites that were added to the press box at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium, as well as the construction of the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex. The suites were finished over the summer and cost nearly $3.3 million. The soccer complex was completed before the start of the 2013 soccer season and cost $8 million. In total, Marshall has invested about $35 million into new sports facilities.

"It's been worth it," Hamrick said. "All of the money we're getting is from private donors... we are very proud of that.

"Dr. Kopp (university president) and I shared a dream to have these new facilities. That dream is slowly becoming a reality. It's so cool."

Hamrick said the campaign's goal is to raise $21 million and although they're close to reaching that goal, additional assistance is needed. All projects are on schedule.

Contact writer John Gibb at john.gibb@dailymail.com or 304-348-1796.


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