HUNTINGTON - Marshall University has completed the purchase of the Flint Group Pigments property in Huntington, located between 3rd and 5th avenues, from the Huntington Municipal Development Authority, Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick announced Wednesday.
The land will be used to construct the Thundering Herd's new baseball stadium, which is set to open in Huntington in March 2021.
Wednesday's announcement also marked the official beginning of Herd Rises, a $22 million fundraising effort to make the stadium a reality, according to the athletic department.
Construction is set to begin in March, with possible groundbreaking next month.
"This is the final step to move forward with an initiative that is long overdue," Hamrick said in a release. "I want to thank Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, Marshall President Dr. Jerry Gilbert and HMDA for their support along the way. Now the hard part starts. I challenge all of our loyal Marshall fans to step up and help us bring this dream to fruition."
Gilbert said he was elated by the purchase.
"The promise of a baseball stadium for Marshall University is becoming reality," he said. "Thank you to Mayor Steve Williams and the city of Huntington, and to Mike Hamrick and all our loyal donors who will make this possible. Now that we've completed this crucial first step and have the land, let's build a baseball stadium!"
During an Aug. 12 meeting, members of HMDA agreed to sell the former Flint Group Pigments property to Marshall University for $468,000, which includes costs for environmental consultants.
Hamrick said the location is exactly where they wanted it to be.
"The plans are to finish up the construction documents in the next couple of months, put it out to bid in December and hopefully everything comes back the way we want it to," Hamrick told The Herald-Dispatch. "If everything comes back the way we hope it does, we will hopefully have some construction starting in the spring."
The old Flint Group Pigments property, which consisted of a warehouse and parking lot, was purchased by HMDA in February for $750,000. This is part of a larger plan to redevelop underused industrial properties in the city's Highlawn neighborhood.
That purchase was made possible with $500,000 won by Huntington in the 2017 America's Best Communities competition and the remaining $250,000 from HMDA.
"This is another step in an exciting path that will lead us to hearing the crack of a bat in the middle of town," Williams said. "Marshall University is the heartbeat of our city, and I am personally thrilled to be in a position to see that the promise made 50 years ago to Coach Jack Cook comes to fruition. Marshall and the city of Huntington are one team."
Marshall currently plays at George T. Smailes Field at the Huntington YMCA Kennedy Center on W.Va. 2, about seven miles from campus.
For the past 13 seasons, the Thundering Herd played Conference USA home games at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston and Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley.
The university has already had some financial commitments made for the stadium. In July, OVP Health pledged $250,000 toward the stadium.
"A mid-major college needs a baseball stadium on campus that the community can support and take part in," said Stacey Shy, CEO of OVP Health, when the announcement was made.
Development of the Flint Group Pigments property was a key component to remake that area and surrounding properties into the Huntington Brownfields Innovation Zone, or H-BIZ.
This was a major part of a plan Huntington leaders submitted to the America's Best Communities competition, winning a $3 million grand prize in April 2017 to help make it a reality.
During a Huntington Municipal Development Authority meeting in June, members approved the purchase of the neighboring ACF Industries complex for $3.12 million. There have been discussions to build a hotel and manufacturing possibilities at the site, which is located along the north and south sides of 3rd Avenue and 24th Street.
There are ongoing negotiations to purchase the former Ohio River Terminals coal dock and rail facility and the long-closed McGinnis Factory. HMDA has an option to purchase the 27-acre former Ingram Barge property along the Ohio River for $1.9 million.
Flint Group Pigments closed its Huntington manufacturing facility in 2017, laying off about 50 workers.
Closure of the plant was a result of the declining demand worldwide of alkali blue, a fairly permanent pigment made from an alkali blue dye that is used chiefly in printing inks, company officials said. Flint Group Pigments is a worldwide supplier to the printing and packaging industry.