Lyons: ‘Facilities Make A Difference In Our Programs’
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Major college athletics include many components, but one of the key aspects in the modern world is the nearly constant cycle of facility construction and renovations.
West Virginia University has been among those schools which seem to be continually building and improving its facilities.
Since joining the Big 12 in 2012, WVU has witnessed the construction of the new basketball practice facility, the Monongalia County Ballpark for baseball and a new outdoor track complex at Mylan Park. Later this fall a new Aquatics Center will open alongside the Mylan Park track complex. A new golf practice course and clubhouse facility also is planned.
In addition during that time, there have been major renovations to the concourse areas, locker rooms, meeting rooms and training areas at Mylan Puskar Stadium and the WVU Coliseum.
And there is more to come.
West Virginia director of athletic Shane Lyons revealed the “Climbing Higher” campaign last August that will raise money through private donations for another $100 million in capital improvements for Mountaineer athletic facilities.
Wednesday, as part of a press conference to reveal an impact study WVU commissioned to look at the economic benefits the local and state economies gained through Mountaineer athletics, Lyons also provided an update on the latest round of construction and renovations.
“I believe that facilities make a difference in our programs,” stated Lyons. “I will continue to believe that and push that. We’ll continue to move forward as much as we can in terms of the budget constraints.
“One thing I can point to is Mon County Ballpark,” he added. “I don’t think if we’re still playing baseball in Hawley Field that we would be having the success like we did this year.”
The biggest upgrade to come is a $55 million overhaul to the Puskar Center, which is the operations hub for Mountaineer football.
There have been multiple changes and renovations to the Puskar Center over the years, but this will be the biggest improvement to that 39-year-old building. The main floor will receive extensive work, with the Hall of Traditions moving to a prominent spot on the front of the building. A complete change to the coaches’ offices and position meeting rooms will also be executed. A new training room and cafeteria were finished last summer, and some other renovations are currently underway. The plan is for all the remaining projects to start when the 2019 season concludes with the hope most will be completed by the time the 2020 season kicks off.
“We’re finishing up what I call ‘Phase 2,’ which is the visiting team locker room area, and once we’re done with that, we’ll be able to start the next phase, which is the home team locker room area,” explained Lyons. “We’ll also provide a new equipment room and team room in that area. Then we’ll also move the Hall of Fame to the front of the building and do some other things, and we’ll start that work after this season. You’ll see a lot of things changing over there after this season.”
The work in the Puskar Center will displace the football coaches and much of the staff for nearly six months while the renovations to the office areas take place. Lyons said that several options had been explored as to where to provide temporary offices and meeting space, and they’ll likely use the two-story Touchdown Terrace in the stadium’s north end.
WVU officials had looked at doing the Puskar Center renovations in stages to keep the disruption to smaller time periods, but Neal Brown and his football staff apparently prefer to just move once, even if it is for a longer stretch, than to do so multiple times.
In addition, football’s Caperton Indoor Practice Facility is undergoing some repairs. The artificial surface is being replaced, the exterior landscaping updated and the interior graphics improved.
The Puskar Center renovations are going to take place even before the $100 million fundraising campaign is finalized, but some of the other projects are contingent upon obtaining that money through private sources.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from our donors in helping with this project,” explained Lyons, whose been WVU’s A.D. since 2015. “I can share that we haven’t yet had that one transformational gift yet, but we have had a lot of interest from our donors.”
The completion of other parts of the “Climbing Higher” campaign is not only dependent on securing the funding but also is part of a domino effect of planned changes.
The $35 million worth of improvements proposed for the Coliseum complex includes a new weight room and training facility for WVU’s Olympic sports, as well as further upgrades to the interior of the Coliseum. Many of the Coliseum renovations are slated to take place on the ground floor in an area that currently serves as a weight room for the Olympic sports teams. That weight room is needed until the Olympic sports training center is constructed, which will be built where the WVU swimming team’s Natatorium is currently located. And the swim team needs the Natatorium until the new Aquatic Center opens in October. So, once the Aquatic Center is finished, the work on the Olympic sports training center can begin, and when that is completed, the space in the Coliseum frees up so the renovations can start there, and so on and so forth.
“This campaign is very aggressive; I understand that,” said Lyons, who is a Parkersburg, West Virginia, native and 1987 WVU graduate. “But I think the importance of upgrading our facilities is key to our future success. My job as director of athletics is to look not just at today and tomorrow but to look five and 10 years down the road.
“What we compete in and train in every day is going to get better. That’s the dice I’m rolling in trying to get us better.”