Ground broken for new soccer complex

Construction of a state-of-the-art soccer complex for Marshall University’s men’s and women’s soccer teams is set to begin soon, with work to be completed by Aug. 1, 2013, in time for the start of the fall season.

To celebrate the start of construction, Marshall officials conducted a ceremonial groundbreaking on the West Lot of Joan C. Edwards Stadium Nov. 16. The soccer complex will be built at 2590 5th Ave. in Huntington, the former site of the historic Veterans Memorial Field House.

The Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex is expected to pay almost instant dividends in areas such as recruiting and training, even before the first match is played.

“This is an exciting and historic day for Marshall University athletics,” said Mike Hamrick, MU’s director of athletics. “Our soccer teams will now have one of the top, if not the top, facilities in the country. It’s also historic because this is the first step toward continuing our facilities enhancement.”

The soccer complex is part of a $30 million project that includes a state of the art indoor practice facility, which will have an indoor track, an athletics hall of fame, an academic support center and a sports medicine translational research center.

“The soccer complex is the first one,” Hamrick said, “and then the domino effect really starts with the other projects.”

Marshall President Stephen J. Kopp said MU’s facilities will rank among the best in Conference USA once construction is completed on the soccer complex and the indoor practice facility. The soccer complex, in particular, will benefit more than just Marshall, he said.

“The new soccer complex will serve not only Marshall’s men’s and women’s soccer programs but our community as well,” Kopp said. “The rising competitiveness of both our men’s and women’s soccer teams will benefit greatly from this state-of-the-art facility. It’s easy to foresee the benefit of this facility with respect to future student-athlete recruitment as well as greater competitive successes on the playing surface.”

Longtime men’s Coach Bob Gray recalled when his teams played their home matches at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

“Then we developed Sam Hood Field from scratch (on campus) and it served its purpose for many years,” said Gray, who is in his 18th year at Marshall. “Now, to have a state-of-the-art facility like we’re going to have will be a tremendous boost to our program. It will help in every facet of recruiting and training that you need to have to be a top notch program.”

Marshall’s men’s teams posted a record of 80-41-9 in 14 seasons at Sam Hood Field. The women’s program began in 1998 and their overall home record during those 14 years was 47-56-12.

The new complex will be about 12,000 square feet in size, with a 500 square-foot press box, about 1,000 seats and a 47-space parking lot. Hamrick said the facility will include coaches’ offices for both programs, locker rooms, a concession area and ticket offices.

MU women’s Coach Kevin Long said the new facility will put Marshall on a level playing field with some of the country’s top programs.

“It will be much more effective training on a field that matches the fields we will be playing on,” Long said. “We could never do that before. Also, this is a very loud statement by the administration that soccer is a strong program and it is here to stay. The fact that we will have a state-of-the-art stadium that surpasses all the teams in our conference should translate to recruits that the administration believes in the program. This type of belief not only speaks volumes to the recruits, but also helps parents to know what a program’s level of support is.”

Marshall’s teams played their home matches on the road this fall, mostly on local high school fields. Gray is looking forward to the convenience and familiarity that comes with having a home stadium.

“Just the fact that our offices and locker rooms and conference room will all be housed in the same building is exciting,” Gray said. “It will give us a more professional approach about training and preparing for our matches. And the state-of-the-art field turf helps us in that, when we have inclement weather, we won’t have to worry about tearing the field up.”

Hamrick and both coaches are excited about what the stadium will mean to the community. It will be used to help develop youth programs, high school matches will be played there, local club teams will play there, and tournaments such as the U.S. Youth Soccer Region I Championships, which return to the Tri-State in 2015, will play many of their matches there. That tournament was played locally in 2009 and 2010, and had an economic impact of around $12 million each year.

Gray acknowledged that he already is seeing the benefits of having a new facility in the near future.

“We had a very good recruiting class this year and it’s helped us schedule wise,” Gray said. “We’re going to have a great number of home games next year. There’s been a snowball effect with all of our programs and it started with the Rec Center. Marshall is on the rise and a lot of good things are happening with the athletic department.”

The total cost of the new soccer complex will be about $8 million, according to Hamrick. That includes $673,409 for demolition of the field house.

The design firm for the project is AECOM Technical Services of Kansas City, Mo., and the construction firm is MIRC Construction Services of Hurricane, W.Va.


Photo: Marshall President Dr. Stephen J. Kopp, center, leads a large group in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the university’s new soccer complex this afternoon outside Joan C. Edwards Stadium. To Kopp’s right is Mike Hamrick, Marshall’s Director of Athletics, and to Kopp’s left is Chad Pennington, co-chair of Marshall’s Vision Campaign. Photo by Rick Haye/Marshall University.