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HUNTINGTON — A new timeline has been announced for the construction and opening of the Marshall University baseball stadium.

Interim Athletic Director Jeff O’Malley, in a Board of Governors Athletic Committee meeting Thursday, said after scaling back some of the stadium design details and re-bidding the project in 2022, the stadium could open ahead of the 2024 season.

“This is something the board wants, a plan that we can move forward with and a timeline. It gives us a goal in the end,” O’Malley said. “I think people were starving for information about where this was going to end up, and now we have something to look to, to move toward.”

When the project went out for bid in December 2019, the total cost was expected to exceed $31 million. Then the fundraising for the project hit a major snag in the form of a global pandemic, pushing the timeline back from the initial goal of 2021.

The project will once again go out for bid in March 2022, O’Malley said, with the goal of opening the stadium for the 2024 season. After altering the design plan to cut costs, the overall projected cost was reduced by $6 million, lowering the total cost to around $25.2 million.

“We really don’t know what those construction numbers are going to come in at in March. We are basing this on pre-COVID numbers,” O’Malley said, referring to the inflated cost of building materials, including lumber.

The cost-cutting moves included eliminating the double light posts in order to hang banners between them and changing them to single poles, and other items like re-worked plumbing fixtures and switching to the use of PVC piping. One committee member said other “dream items” like extra ticket booths were also eliminated from the design plan.

The city of Huntington and Marshall officials completed the purchase of the former Flint Group Pigments property in February 2019, with a total investment cost of $1.2 million, including the purchase price of $750,000 and additional cleanup costs. That site was and remains the location for the stadium.

The 8-acre property, located along the north side of 5th Avenue at 24th Street, is part of a vision to revitalize neglected industrial properties in Huntington’s Highlawn neighborhood.

To date, the Marshall Athletic Department has a combined $3 million of cash and pledged money in the bank. O’Malley said he is confident another $7 million from non-private sources is soon to follow, but said he would not officially announce it until it was in their possession.

That fills about $10 million of an estimated $25 million project, leaving the needed funds for construction and completion of the stadium at $15 million. That number doesn’t scare O’Malley, who is taking his first steps as the interim athletic director, filling the seat soon to be vacated by Mike Hamrick.

“We’re very confident,” said O’Malley.

Marshall, a member of Conference USA, plays most of its nonconference home games at George Smailes Field at the Huntington YMCA Kennedy Center about seven miles from campus. That field doesn’t meet C-USA requirements, but the league is allowing the Herd to play there this year because the facility is being upgraded and the school’s promise of a new stadium.

Luke Creasy is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @LukeCreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.

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