HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The lot immediately to the east of Joan C. Edwards Stadium sat vacant one day last week, save for a few workers, surveyors and some heavy equipment.
That was temporary, as the action has picked up. Somebody, something made that lot so flat it almost shines. A year or so from now, the much-discussed indoor practice facility will shine, rising above the stadium rim and changing the landscape of Marshall athletics.
A few blocks east on Fifth Avenue, the replacement for the Veterans Memorial Field House is chugging toward completion. That is the soccer complex, due to be ready for an alumni game on Aug. 23.
Back at the stadium, the four new, large, long-since-rented sky suites are under roof and being built out. From the inside, they look as if they could double as racquetball courts.
A few million dollars still need to be raised for the Vision Campaign, but MU athletic director Mike Hamrick is more than confident. Now, he can show donors concrete (literal and figurative) evidence of this $33.5 million endeavor.
"I'm not really worried when these things are going to get finished," Hamrick said. "I was always worried when they were going to be started. If they're started, they'll get finished.
"When I saw that bulldozer out there [on the practice facility site] two weeks ago, I was a happy camper."
The bulldozers and heavy equipment have long been shipped out of the soccer complex, which has a table-flat pitch made of modern-day AstroTurf. More grass-like than the FieldTurf at Edwards Stadium, it qualifies as FIFA 2-star surface. (AstroTurf's motto these days: "More fiber, less fill.")
Last week, groundwork was laid for the 1,000-seat bleachers, and those will be erected in a hurry. The 15,000-square foot building is enclosed, the press box's exterior is finished and the interior rooms are well defined.
Those rooms will be roomy, too. Let's put it this way: Locker rooms - men's team, women's team, two for visitors and a separate room for officials - training rooms and restrooms will put the football facilities of Hamrick's playing days to shame. And the long walk from both teams to Sam Hood Field will be a distant memory.
The lighting is top-notch and the aesthetics will be, too, with a soccer-themed entrance among the highlights.
As promised, the monument to veterans has been preserved from the Field House and incorporated into the side of the building facing Fifth Avenue - seamlessly, it appears.
MU gave $100,000 to the local parks and recreation board, which built a children's park adjoining the complex - a potential godsend for parents at youth soccer events.
And there will be plenty of those. The U.S. Youth Soccer Association Region 1 championships that the Huntington area hosted in 2009 and 2010 will return in 2015 and 2016, and the new MU field becomes the logical championship-match venue.
Conceivably, the 135,000-square foot indoor practice facility could host a match, too. As it is, it will facilitate many things beyond a full-field football practice - full meets can be held on the 300-meter track, field events and all. With netting, a respectable baseball practice can take place, and golfers can see at least the first 75 yards of their practice shots. And so on.
Equally exciting are the adjacent athletic hall of fame, athletic-academic center and sports medicine center. The expansion of the academic facilities will be amazing, contrasted with what is in place now - a single room in the Shewey Building with 10 working computers, if that many.