HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall football fans attending Joan C. Edwards Stadium this season should notice many differences to the gameday experience both inside and outside of the facility.
The Marshall University Athletics Department announced on Tuesday numerous changes aimed at enhancing the football gameday atmosphere for Thundering Herd fans. The announcement comes less than four weeks before Marshall’s home opener on Saturday, Sept. 11 against North Carolina Central. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
Chuck McGill, Assistant Athletic Director for Fan/Donor Engagement and Communications at Marshall told MetroNews there is a lot of momentum with ticket sales ahead of the season in anticipation of first-year head coach Charles Huff and the stadium being back at full capacity. He added Huff had some influence on the changes.
“When you start a new era with an overhaul of a coaching staff and bring in a new head coach, he’ll want to put a stamp on the program. He shared his ideas and wants to bring fan-friendly aspects to the game,” McGill said.
The first item on the list of gameday improvements described by Marshall is Thunder Street, a new fan area on 20th Street between 3rd and 5th Avenue. It will open four hours prior to kickoff and close 45 minutes prior to the scheduled kickoff of the game.
The Thunder Street area will feature a concert series as well as multiple food vendors, beer and an inflatable ‘M’ helmet for fan photos. McGill said there could also be a carnival-type atmosphere with games but that is being worked out under the COVID-19 guidelines.
The street runs along the West Lot, a popular tailgating area. Although pass-holders will still be able to access parking via the two 20th Street entrances, the area between those two gates will be closed to through traffic, the release said. Through traffic on 20th Street will reopen approximately at halftime of the game.
McGill said the improvement he heard the most about once the announcement dropped was AT&T installing a new cell tower on the east side of Joan C. Edwards Stadium. He said the tower will improve AT&T’s coverage throughout the stadium and in the surrounding community, thus helping all cell users.
“I have heard more about the AT&T tower than anything today (Tuesday). It’s AT&T’s tower but the more it helps AT&T users, the more it frees up other users as well. Everyone will benefit from that,” McGill said.
Inside the stadium, fans can expect a new point-of-sale system at all food concession vendor stands. Marshall said in a news release it should lead to a substantial increase in speed of service for stadium guests.
Also on the concession end is two new vendors. Midway Drive-In will serve its hot dogs and more at Stand No. 2 on the West concourse. Truckin’ Cheesy will be located at Stand No. 9 on the East concourse.
Fans can expect fireworks and pyrotechnics for pre-game and in-game elements. The displays will be included in the pre-game team entrance and following Thundering Herd touchdowns. McGill said Marshall tried pre-game fireworks in the 2019 season but had to cut them in 2020 due to the coronavirus on-field restrictions.
There will also be the debut of DJ Herd That, a student who won the opportunity to assist with in-game music selections. McGill called the DJ all of Huff’s idea. The DJ will be located behind the student section on the walkway behind Section 119.
McGill said the DJ will play music that goes throughout the stadium and will coordinate with Marshall’s band and the production crew in the press box. He added part of the reason behind the idea is to keep students engaged.
“With all this out there with social media, Snapchat and TikTok, all of the ways they are pulled while on campus, we wanted to keep them in the stadium,” McGill said. “We wanted a student DJ in there, somebody they saw on campus and could play some music on down time and get the student section energized and into the game.”
— Marshall Football (@HerdFB) August 17, 2021
The university also announced the Thunder Walk will change slightly this season. Football players and staff will exit the buses on the corner of 20th Street and 3rd Avenue, walk down 20th Street toward the Thunder Street event area, and then enter the West Lot at the entrance closest to 3rd Avenue, a release said. The players will then walk through the West Lot, as in previous years, toward the northwest ramp and enter the stadium.
Re-entry will remain to be allowed at Joan C. Edwards Stadium this season.
The Sept. 11 regular-season home opener will be broadcast by ESPN+. The Thundering Herd will also host East Carolina (Saturday, Sept. 18), Old Dominion (Saturday, Oct. 9), FIU (Saturday, Oct. 30), UAB (Saturday, Nov. 13) and WKU (Saturday, Nov. 27).
Other promotions and game themes will be announced at a later date, McGill said.
Jeff O’Malley, the Interim Director of Athletics said in a statement on Tuesday, “Our objective this offseason was to explore every opportunity to improve the gameday experience for the best fans in college football.
“We have implemented changes to the pre-game environment outside of the stadium and added elements to the in-game experience that we know our fans will appreciate.”