- Aaron S. Terry
Cam Henderson Center – Marshall Thundering Herd
Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Henderson Center One John Marshall Drive Huntington, WV 25755
Marshall Thundering Herd website
Year Opened: 1981
Jam the Cam!
Cam Henderson Center was built in 1981, as part of a deal with the West Virginia state legislature – legislators affiliated with Marshall refused to support funds to help build Mountaineer Field at West Virginia University unless Marshall also received a facility. The Center was originally designed to hold over 10,000 fans and had a retractable floor (so that other sports could be played there), but due to construction problems, the retractable floor was eventually replaced, which led to the current capacity of 9,048.
Cam Henderson Center is named after former basketball, baseball, and football coach Cam Henderson, who coached at Marshall in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Henderson is known for originating the fast break and 2-3 zone defense, which are major components of modern basketball. The Center is currently home to the Marshall University basketball teams, but is also occasionally used for volleyball and tennis.
Food & Beverage 2
Cam Henderson Center doesn’t have a great selection at its concession stands, but fortunately, college basketball games are not very long.
There are only two main dishes (hot dogs and Philly cheesesteak) and only a handful of other items, including kettle corn, popcorn, pretzels, Cracker Jack, candy, and chips. Prices are on the low side, however; everything costs between $2 and $4, except for the Philly cheesesteak, which costs $7, and the kettle corn, which costs $6 and only comes in a large bag.
Drink options are exactly what you would expect from a stadium – you can get soda, bottled water, Gatorade, coffee, hot cocoa, or fresh-squeezed lemonade. Drink prices range from $3 to $6, depending on beverage choice and size. There is no alcohol available in Cam Henderson Center, as it is located on campus.
Cam Henderson Center provides a decent atmosphere, with great crowd noise and comfortable seating in most areas.
The Center is constructed of brick and cement, and has very unique architecture, with walls that angle in until about two-thirds of the way up, when the top portion begins to angle back out. The side facing the dorms also has a series of angled support columns.
The inside of the Center is also unique – unlike many basketball arenas, which have plenty of seating on all four sides, at Marshall almost all of the seats are along the sidelines, with only a few seats behind each backboard. The seats along the sidelines angle up sharply, due to the architecture, but since the Center isn’t very big, this doesn’t create any vertigo problems.
Most of the seats are chair backs, with the most comfortable ones located in the lower level – seats in this area are padded. There are a few sections with bleachers, namely behind the backboards and at the very top of the facility. There is also plenty of signage inside Cam Henderson Center, in the form of banners commemorating tournament appearances, as well as wall-size pictures of notable former players on the walls out in the concourse.
Marshall basketball provides typical entertainment during the game, such as the cheerleaders performing and the mascot playing games with kids during breaks in the action. However, Marshall also does a good job trying to get involved in the local community – for example, during halftime, the cheerleaders perform with local junior cheerleader squads, and the Center also supports pet adoption by bringing animals needing homes in during games.
There isn’t much in Huntington besides the university, but there are some interesting attractions around town, and several places to eat before or after the game.
The most well-known hangout is Fat Patty’s, which is located on 3rd Avenue, not far from the Center. Specializing in burgers, Fat Patty’s offers a full bar, large TVs, and two happy hours (4pm-7pm & 10pm-1am), and is a big hit with the locals, thanks to its casual atmosphere. There are also plenty of other restaurants along 3rd Avenue, including fast food, as well as fine dining.
One of the interesting things you will see dotted around Huntington are painted sculptures of locomotives, which are sponsored by local businesses and painted by local artists. These sculptures are meant to commemorate the importance of railroads in the area’s history. There is also a one-room schoolhouse museum not far from the Center – check out the video to see one of the sculptures and the museum:
Marshall basketball fans bring lots of energy to the Cam Henderson Center, and almost all fans show up wearing green.
While the Center may not always sell out, there is still a great showing, with a crowd of at least seven or eight thousand strong during a typical game (80-90% capacity), especially later in the season during conference match-ups.
The crowd cheers loudly throughout the game, and cheers of “We are Marshall!” and “Let’s go Herd!” are frequent. Most of the fans stay in their seats while the game is going on, so the concourse is pretty deserted, except during halftime.
Parking during Marshall basketball games is surprisingly difficult, but bathrooms are easily accessible inside the Center, if you know where to look.
Cam Henderson Center is located across the street from the football stadium, which has four times the capacity, so it seems like there should be plenty of parking during basketball games. However, most of the regular parking areas, such as the lot outside the football stadium and the nearby parking decks, seem to be reserved for pass holders, and I did not see a single cash lot. The only place to park is on one of the nearby streets, so it might take some time to find a space. On the plus side, street parking is usually free, unless you park next to a meter (these are only free on Sundays).
The main entrance is on the 3rd Avenue side, which is closer to parking for most fans, but you can get in on the opposite side.
Moving around the stadium is fairly easy, since the concourse is pretty wide, but you may have to fight some lines during halftime. In the seating area itself, there are lots of walkways facing the court, so fans can move around and still watch the game. The bathrooms tend to have long lines during halftime, but if you walk around to the end of the concourse (behind the backboard), you won’t have to wait – this part of the concourse is pretty deserted, since most of the seats are along the sidelines.
Return on Investment 3
Attending a game at the Cam Henderson Center is a good experience, but is probably not worthwhile cost-wise, unless you are able to buy cheap tickets.
Tickets start at $10 for general admission (nosebleed seating), and go up to $25 (seats closest to the court). While the atmosphere is certainly fun and the crowd is solid, I am not sure the experience is worth $25, especially if you have a large group. Plus, even though the concessions are cheap enough, they are not all that fulfilling, and parking is a little bit of a hassle.
It would be a good idea to buy your tickets online in advance, because the cheap seats may sell out if you wait until game day.
The architecture is very unique, and it is nice to see that the administration tries to support the community by letting local groups participate on game day. Also, it is a lot of fun to drive around town and do some train-spotting for the colorful sculptures.
If you come to Cam Henderson Center for a game, be sure to arrive early, so you have less trouble finding parking. Also, be sure to wear green, or you definitely will look out of place!