— By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Is the long-promised Marshall University baseball facility getting closer to becoming a reality?
Recent comments from Marshall President Brad Smith indicate progress is being made on the project.
During last week’s MU Board of Governors meeting, Smith said that advances are being made on the baseball stadium, and added an announcement is in the works.
Even with Smith’s statement, no moves regarding the long-stalled project were made during the meeting.
A sign remains in place along Huntington’s busy 5th Avenue east of the Marshall campus indicating the site for the baseball stadium. The university purchased the site three years ago from the Huntington Municipal Development Authority in hopes of having the baseball team to begin play last season at a state-of-the-art 3,000 seat facility.
Those hopes were greatly altered and have been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and early bids for construction that came in beyond the planned project budget.
Smith told the Board of Governors last week that the university is looking at controlling project costs before proceeding with construction as well as what is best for the community.
“We recognize that everyone has been overly patient and getting to the point of being inpatient about when we will make an announcement,” Smith said. “We assure you we’re at the point now where we’re dotting the Is and crossing the Ts.”
Smith had a message for patient Herd baseball fans, saying they’d know the project is happening not by the fanfare of a groundbreaking, but when “bulldozers are moving.”
The project has received a major financial boost from the city of Huntington, which is providing $8,000,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to be used for land work, but not bricks-and-mortar construction.
That funding must be spent by the end of 2024.
Board of Governors Chairman Patrick Farrell says he was encouraged by Smith’s project update.
“It sounds like we’re making really good progress, but there are still a few details to finalize,” Farrell said. “The board is eager to give our final approval and to see the Herd play baseball in Huntington as soon as possible.”
Marshall now plays home games at the YMCA Kennedy Center, located on W.Va. Route 2 about six miles north of Huntington.
Marshall also recently changed athletic directors, with Christian Spears taking over in that role starting March 14.