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Chuck Landon: Upcoming projects have MU on the move

February 23, 2019

Marshall University is Huntington.

And Huntington is Marshall University.

In a nine-word nutshell that explains why the City of Huntington and Marshall University combined forces to create a so very long-awaited, baseball stadium.

The baseball side of the $18 to 20 million project was announced Thursday afternoon on the site of the proposed new stadium.

It was a glorious day.

“This is something we waited on a long time,” said Mike Hamrick, Marshall’s athletic director. “This has been long overdue and it’s finally here.”

Overdue is an understatement.

Iconic former baseball coach Jack Cook was promised a new field when Marshall hired him in 1966. Let me repeat that, 1966. That means if the new stadium is indeed ready for the 2021 season it will have taken 55 years for this promise to have been kept.

It means a lot of Marshall athletic directors had their fingers crossed behind their backs for many, many years.

But not Hamrick.

To his credit, the current Marshall AD is relentlessly pushing to fulfill this project. It could be heard in his words on Thursday.

“Come this November,” he declared, “we want to put this out to bid. That March (2020) we want to start construction. It will take 12 months to build the stadium. We will play ball in the baseball stadium in March, 2021.

“It will be the best baseball stadium in the state of West Virginia.”

Hamrick was doing a masterful job of playing to his crowd by taking that thinly disguised shot at West Virginia University’s acclaimed new stadium.

No surprise there since the rhetoric was flowing like the coffee from the trio of urns sitting next to a tray of cookies. It was difficult to decide which was more delicious.

“Jerry Gilbert,” said Mayor Steve Williams, referring to Marshall University’s president, “we have bought this eight-acre property from Flint Pigments Group and it’s time to build a baseball stadium.”

Gilbert didn’t flinch.

“We knew it was going to happen,” answered Gilbert. “Now, here we are. Today is step one. I look forward to watching baseball right over there in the 2021 season.”

One speaker after another kept battling in this entertaining game of one-upsmanship until the master took the podium. No offense, but no mayor, no athletic director, no college president could hang with Jack Cook.

Not on this day of all days.

“I’m going to turn 93 in July,” said Cook. “I want to tell Mike (Hamrick) and everyone else, get this field ready in a hurry. Hopefully, I will be able to watch some of the games.”

Well said, Coach.

Now, for the other portion of the project.

Besides a new baseball stadium, it also calls for the renovation of old Gullickson Hall so it can serve as the Marshall men’s basketball practice facility.

It, too, is supposed to be completed in 2021.

“The price tag is right at $3 million,” said Danny D’Antoni, Marshall’s fifth-year head coach. “Unless we move our offices over there. Then, it could go a little higher.”

That’s why, according to sources, MU is trying to raise $25 million.

Just think.

Marshall has built an Indoor Practice Facility with an indoor track, Hall of Fame and sports training facility; a new soccer complex; and, now, there will be a new baseball stadium and basketball training facility.

That’s $75 to 80 million in facilities since Hamrick became AD 10 years ago.

Well done.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.