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Chuck Landon: If you build it, will they donate?

Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:10 AM

This has been a real life "Field of Dreams."

How long have Marshall's athletic department and Herd fans been talking about building an indoor practice facility? Ten years, perhaps?

The problem is that's all it was. ... talk.

Oh, sure, there was once a surcharge on tickets supposedly going into a fund to build an indoor practice facility. Hmmm, wonder whatever became of that money? There are several theories.

And, yes, then-athletic director Kayo Marcum made a trip to Dallas to view the Cowboys' new state-of-the-art indoor practice facility, which involved a pressurized bubble that made the project more cost effective.

Whoosh.

That idea also got deflated.

When this "Field of Dreams" actually seemed viable, I remember sitting in Marshall president Steve Kopp's office after he had been hired in 2005 and bringing up the indoor practice facility.

"Don't they play outside in the mud and rain?" asked Kopp rhetorically.

That's the moment I mentally crossed an indoor practice facility off any list of expectations. That's when it became a "Field of Dreams."

But, now, thanks to some enlightened thinking among Marshall's leadership from Kopp to athletic director Mike Hamrick, the indoor practice facility is no longer a mere "Field of Dreams."

Instead, it is so close to reality a ground-breaking ceremony will be held April 26.

Does that mean Hamrick, along with Vision Campaign co-chairmen Mike D'Antoni and Chad Pennington, has raised the $20 million portion of the necessary $30 million (the other $10 million will be bonded)?

No.

The current total stands at a little more than $15 million, so nearly another $5 million is needed to build a complex that will include an indoor practice facility, Hall of Fame, academic support center and sports medicine translational research center.

The good news is an anonymous donor recently contributed $5 million to push the total slightly above $15 million. More good news is when Chris Cline donated $5 million at the beginning of the fund-drive, his contribution was matched by the "Bucks for Brains" program.

However, that $5 million isn't included in the approximate $15 million figure because it carries specific earmarks.

Long story short?

Marshall still needs nearly another $5 million. There's enough money to merit a ground-breaking, but not enough to bond the remaining balance.

So, what is Marshall going to do?

The Herd is going to hope that since Marshall supporters can see how close this long-awaited project is to fruition, they will contribute to the Vision Campaign.

Hamrick notes that 327 members of the Big Green have contributed, but there are 2,712 other members who haven't donated. That is who he is trying to reach now.

Does he expect million-dollar pledges?

No.

What Hamrick does hope is Marshall's grassroots fans will get on-board and contribute whatever is possible.

The best part is as the new $8 million soccer complex rapidly takes shape and, now, that a date has been established to break ground on a new indoor practice facility. ... well, Marshall fans actually can see their dreams coming true.

No more "Field of Dreams," right?

Wrong.

Until Marshall has a baseball field, the concept lives.

That is the quintessential "Field of Dreams."

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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