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Need for new athletic facilities being questioned

May. 25, 2013 @ 11:10 PM

HUNTINGTON -- In the midst of Marshall University's budget woes, faculty members have made a number of criticisms of athletics, including the new facilities that are being built.

While the soccer complex, football stadium suites and indoor practice facility are primarily being funded through donations, ticket surcharges and leases for the suites, they ask if the university can afford to take on the expense of maintenance and operations.

That's a concern expressed by Dallas Brozik, a professor the College of Business, who said that cost inevitably falls on the backs of students and the taxpayers.

"These were tax dollars given to the university for the education of our students," Brozik said. "I do not ever recall hearing that allocations were made by the state legislature for 'athlete-tainment.' Every dollar that was used to support the games was a dollar taken away from education. The future of West Virginia lies in educating students, not in producing the occasional professional athlete."

Ron Area, the chief executive officer for the Marshall University Foundation, says operation costs are taken into consideration during the foundation's fundraising. He said with any new facility that comes online, the foundation works to raise 20 percent of the total cost to establish an endowment that will help pay for operations and maintenance.

That goes for both academic and athletic facilities, he said, noting the same process is underway for the new engineering complex and fine arts facility now under construction.

Athletic Director Mike Hamrick and David Steele, the associate athletics director, also said they understand the concern but pointed out that some of the new facilities have built-in revenue streams. The soccer complex is first and foremost for the soccer teams. But Steele said they have been fielding inquiries for months on a state, regional and national level about using the field for tournaments.

The football stadium suites, Steele said, pay for themselves through leases. In addition, the project includes the addition of a third elevator, upgrades to the two existing elevators and roof replacement -- more than $500,000 worth of work that had been on the university's capital improvements list.

And the indoor practice facility, they said, will take Marshall from last to first in terms of what it can offer student-athletes. In addition to a full indoor football field, there will be a track so that Marshall can actually host meets instead of traveling all season.

The facility also will include an academic center that can accommodate many more student-athletes, and a sports medicine translational research center, a facility that Hamrick and President Stephen Kopp have said will attract students on the academic side. And, there already is $10 million (from a donation and state match) to fund research and positions.

Area also added that of the nearly $26 million raised last year in donations and pledges by the foundation, only about $6.3 million was for athletics.

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