For many, this is a Hollywood movie. For the Thundering Herd faithful, it is a remembrance of 75 players, coaches, and flight crew that lost their lives in a 1970 plane crash and a chant that you will hear often during a Marshall football game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Opened in 1991, the home of the Herd is located at the western edge of campus in Huntington, WV. Current capacity is 38,016 after the last upgrade of the stadium in 2000.
Marshall currently is a member of Conference USA in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Previous to 1997, the Herd played in Division I-AA (now the Football Championship Subdivision) and won national championships in 1992 & 1996. They have been unable to duplicate that success at the highest level of college football and recent success has been rare with only two bowl appearances in the last eight years. The 2012 season has seen an offensive explosion from the team and has fans on the edge of their seat with every possession. NFL stars that came through Huntington include Byron Leftwich, Chad Pennington, and Randy Moss.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Upon entering the gate, you immediately get caught up in the smells of food. If you didn't eat beforehand, it will be hard to resist getting something to eat before finding your seat. You can find plenty of variety at "The Joan" to feed your hunger. There is the standard fare of hot dogs, pizza, and pretzels served with Pepsi products to drink available at the permanent concessions, but across the concourse from those stands is where you find the specialty items. Popped on-site kettle corn, caramel apple chips, old fashioned lemonade, and a cappuccino/apple cider stand are some of the unique items that you will find as you walk around the concourse.
I found some of the items to be a bit pricey ($6 for a large lemonade). However, it is great to have some options other than the typical stadium food. You will also find cheesesteaks, Italian sausage, and funnel cakes at these individual stands. Bring cash as the main concessions take credit/debit, but most of the stand-alone vendors don't. I did not notice an ATM on site, so come prepared.
As you approach the stadium, you will see nothing but green. The parking lot of the stadium is one big party on game day. These fans come prepared as you will see cookouts, spreads of food, beer, blenders, footballs being tossed - a great scene for an autumn Saturday at a college game. After you get through the masses in the main lot, there are multiple gates for you to enter. Each gate has a list of sections that are easily accessible from that location, so know your section as you approach the front of the stadium.
Seating in the stadium is in a U-shape with the northern end zone home to the training facility and locker rooms. This is also where the players enter the field before the game. With the stadium running north-south, I recommend sitting on the home side (west) to avoid the sun in your eyes in the late afternoon. The student section is on the southeast side of the stadium running into the end zone where the marching band sits. This is typically the loudest and noisiest part of the stadium, so choose appropriately when purchasing your tickets.
Cheerleaders rotate around the stadium during the game, which I appreciated as I was sitting close to the sidelines and the quarter they were in front of me was sufficient. Marco the Mascot was visible around the stadium and did a good job of interacting with the kids when possible. The PA system is clear and the announcer does a good job of blending in with the game. You know he's there and he gets you what you need, which I sincerely appreciate, but I wasn't looking for a volume button to turn him down. There is a scoreboard in each end zone, both with video screens that showed live action along with replays. This is great, as I was sitting close to the north end zone and couldn't see that screen very well, so it was nice to have a view of the other scoreboard.
Most of the seating in the stadium is aluminum bench-style. Bring $6 with you and rent a stadium seat if you don't own one. You can pick them up as soon as you enter the stadium, carry them to your seat, and when the game is over, leave it there and the staff will pick it up. It's a great investment and a comfortable seat made the game experience much more enjoyable.
Located on the edge of campus, the immediate neighborhood is mostly lecture halls and dorm rooms. You have quite a few fast food options immediately outside the stadium, but if you're looking for some good game day grub before or after the game, you have to go to Fat Patty's on 3rd Avenue, right around the corner from the stadium. It's always crowded, on game days, but it's got great food and atmosphere. Get the Pretzel Patty - you won't be sorry.
If you're looking for post-game entertainment, you can take a short drive down 3rd Avenue to Pullman Square, where you can find a movie theater, shops, and other eating options, such as Uno's Pizza and Five Guys Burgers & Fries. Huntington is a nice town to take a walk around, but other than the campus and Pullman, there wasn't a whole lot that caught my attention.
Fans are into the Herd! Not only are they knowledgeable of the game and the players on the field, they are friendly and will talk Marshall football with whoever is around. I didn't know the gentleman sitting next to me at the last game I attended, but we talked throughout the game like we had been watching together for years. Along with the cheer mentioned in the introduction, you've got to know the "Thunderclap". After each score, fans raise their hands above their head and clap once for each point the home team has scored in the game.
The one drawback of the fan base to me is that many fans opinion of the team sway quickly based on the team's performance on the previous play. I have sat in numerous sections in the stadium and the attitude is pretty consistent. If the team is playing well, the crowd is pumped, but as soon as a bad play is made, the negativity comes out. This isn't all fans, but enough that I notice it frequently. Recent years have not produced the winning tradition the fans became accustomed to in the '90s, so I believe a lot of that reaction is based on frustration and passion for their team.
Getting to the stadium is not difficult. Located in the city of Huntington, it is 10 minutes off of Interstate 64. Parking spots on stadium grounds are by permit only and are not easy to come by, as you have to pay for a season along with being a 'Big Green' donor. Your best option is to find street parking on 3rd or 5th Avenue and walk the few blocks to the stadium. There is a new parking garage open on 6th Avenue that is free and was hardly used at the game I most recently attended, making it easy to get out after the game.
Restrooms are plentiful and located in the concourses on the east and west side of the stadium. Cleanliness was average, though the men's room could use an update from the "trough style" urinals that are currently installed. That's a minor issue and probably keeps the lines moving quicker.
The concourse can get crowded during halftime, but one of the unique things I found at this stadium is that re-entry is allowed. Simply show your ticket on the way out the gate and they will mark your hand and you are free to come and go as you please. Many fans take advantage of this, especially at halftime to go out to their tailgate party and "refuel" - remember, no alcohol is served inside the stadium. To get back in, you only need your ticket and your stamped hand. I didn't take advantage of this, but I believe it kept concourse traffic more controlled during intermission creating a better experience for me as a fan.
Tickets for either sideline will cost you $35, although you can find them cheaper on the secondary market for most games. End zone seats are $25, but I recommend getting a sideline view. Combine that with free parking that is available within blocks of the stadium and the re-entry policy that doesn't hold you hostage to buying stadium food if you are hungry, and you have the makings of an enjoyable fall afternoon.
"WE ARE...MARSHALL!" Fan or not, if that doesn't get you pumped, check your pulse. The band delivers a solid pregame and halftime show and plays music at appropriate times during the game. One thing I appreciated was that they complement the home team and don't try to turn the band into the main attraction.
Take advantage of the opportunity to take a stroll through a nice campus. Don't forget to check out the Marshall Memorial Fountain that is located behind the student center. The fountain commemorates those that lost their lives in the plane crash. If you attend a game after November 14th, the anniversary of the crash, the fountain will be off and is not turned on again until the following spring.
I've been to a handful of games over the past few years at this stadium and have never been disappointed. The team is competitive and the atmosphere is fun, making for a good time for a football fan. I believe a winning team on the field will bring this experience to the next level for their faithful fans.
Joan C. Edwards stadium is located at the end of campus in Huntington, West Virginia and has an official capacity of 38,016. It is constructed so that future expansion can bring the seating to over 55,000. Immediately upon entering you can see why the stadium has hosted 6 Div I-AA (now FCS) championship games and 5 MAC championship games since being built in 1991.
The shape of the stadium itself is a horseshoe with the open end fairly closed off by the weight room facility and the football offices.
The place we call home on Game Day in Huntington.
857 3rd Ave
Huntington, WV 25701
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800 3rd Ave
Huntington, WV 25701