Lyons Looks Ahead To Phase 2 Of WVU’s Facilities Improvements
Each summer dating back to Fred Schaus, I’ve gotten a chance to sit down with West Virginia University’s director of athletics for an in-depth interview on a wide range of topics. From conference realignment to coaching changes to facilities renovations, we’ve covered an extensive landscape over the last three decades.
This summer I got another chance for a lengthy one-on-one interview with Shane Lyons, who was hired as WVU’s A.D. in January of 2015. As usual, the questions involved a variety of subjects. In a series of articles over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll look at Lyons’ view on those topics. We kicked off this series with a recap of Phase 1. In this second installment from that interview, we’ll look at Phase 2 of West Virginia’s athletic facilities renovations, which Lyons will reveal publicly in the next month.
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Phase 1 of West Virginia’s athletic facilities improvement master plan is close to completion.
Now comes Phase 2.
WVU director of athletic Shane Lyons is slated to publicly reveal this latest round of improvements in the next month or so.
It comes on the heels of significant renovations to Mountaineer athletic facilities, especially to the concourse areas at both the WVU Coliseum and Mountaineer Field. Each concourse was widened for better pedestrian traffic flow, and new restrooms and concession areas were constructed. In addition, a new aquatics center and track are both being built at Mylan Park, which is about four miles east of the Coliseum. The track should be ready for use this fall, and the schedule is for the aquatics center to be available for competition in the fall of 2019.
That will basically end Phase 1, but it will be followed in short order by Phase 2, which will include significant renovations to football’s Puskar Center and more changes in the Coliseum. A golf practice facility will also be part of this latest set of improvements.
“Phase 2 will be rolled out in the next month or so,” explained Lyons. “It will be more oriented to our student-athlete. At football, it will include a new operations center. We’re finishing up a new training area, and we’ll have a new training table area over there. Other renovations will include a new home locker room, a new visiting locker room, new position meeting rooms and coaches’ offices. The entire operations complex will be changing. Those plans will roll out soon.
“Within the Coliseum complex, there are things we need to do within the inner bowl in terms of seating, lighting, a new video board and things there.
“For the Olympic sports, we need a new weight room and training facility, and we’re looking at updating the Shell [Building] area,” he added.
Phase 1 came with a $106 million price tag. Of that, $75 million came from a bond package and another $6 million came from WVU multimedia rights contract. The rest was funded through Mountaineer Athletic Club donations.
Lyons hasn’t yet revealed the cost of the Phase 2 improvements, but it’s expected he is going to try to pay for most of those through private donations.
“There is a fundraising aspect that will go with these new renovations,” said West Virginia’s director of athletics, who has been in that position since January of 2015. “We want to get these plans out to the public so we can go start raising a lot of those funds.”
Lyons has some options when it comes to land around the Coliseum. The old baseball stadium, Hawley Field, has basically gone unused since Randy Mazey’s club moved into Monongalia County Ballpark in 2015. And the outdoor track at the Coliseum also soon is not going to be needed.
“With the new track at Mylan Park just about finished, we’re going to have the old track here at the Coliseum at our disposal,” noted Lyons. “We could take that and make additional parking there.
“We also still have Hawley Field, but we’re planning to keep that as it is right now,” he explained. “We want to keep that space available. Maybe in the future we’ll need it to build another indoor facility for our Olympic sports. There’s probably the need for another indoor facility, though on our priority list right now, that’s not real, real high. We have other things we want to accomplish first, but if some day we want to build another indoor, it will be nice to have that space. So, we’re going to hold off on doing anything with Hawley Field right now. We’ll maintain it as it is until down the road when we decide what we want to do with that space.”
The Natatorium, which has been home to WVU’s swim teams since 1975, also will soon be without a tenant. Vic Riggs’ men’s and women’s squads will move to the new aquatics center when it is finished in the fall of 2019.
Lyons had considered turning the Natatorium into a smaller arena for use by the WVU gymnastics, volleyball and wrestling teams. All three now hold their home matches in the Coliseum, but usually don’t attract crowds of more than a few thousand. But further study found that a reconfigured Natatorium wouldn’t be big enough.
“In looking at that and talking to the architect, the seating capacity was not going to be what we needed,” Lyons noted. “So, that’s not going to happen. We do have some plans for the Natatorium when it becomes available, but to make it into a small arena isn’t going to happen.”
The original master plan also called for a separate building behind the Coliseum that would house a weight room and training facility for many of WVU’s Olympic sports. Most of those currently use a weight room and training space in the Coliseum, and the idea was to provide them with their own facility. In turn the Coliseum weight room, which is on the floor level behind the basket on the end of the floor by the home bench, could provide an additional club area and suites for donors as well as a media workroom. Before conversion of the Coliseum weight room can start, though, the separate Olympic sports training center must be finished, and that could be part of Phase 2.
“It’s something that’s on the board. It may not be a stand-alone building, though,” Lyons explained. “We’re trying to look at what all our Olympic teams need in terms of a training facility, weight lifting facility, a new training room. One thing we’ve concentrated on is nutrition, which is very important to the health and well being of our student-athlete. All that will be encompassed in this new facility.”
One of the bigger pieces to Phase 2 is the purchase of land for, and then the construction of, a golf practice facility.
Since the Mountaineers restarted their golf program three years ago, Sean Covich’s team has practiced at variety of local courses. When the weather doesn’t allow the golfers to get outside, they use a TrackMan Golf Simulator in a room in a University building on the Evansdale Campus.
Lyons hopes to construct a practice facility for the golf squad, though as with most things, it comes down to finding the money. It’s estimated that buying the land and then building the facility will cost in the neighborhood of $5 million.
Lyons has his eye on 93 acres of land that has been home to the White Day Golf Course. No longer in operation, that nine-hole course is situated on the Monongalia-Marion County line on Route 73 less than four miles south of the Goshen Road exit of I-79.
“We’re in the process of securing the land now,” said Lyons. “After we secure the land, we’ll start building what we call a practice course. It will be five or six holes with different configurations. That way it will give us up to 27 different hole configurations. On top of that it will have a range and the building with offices and a locker room and a study area and things like that. It will also have hitting bays where we’ll have garage doors that roll up, and as long as there’s not snow on the ground, they can work from a heated area and hit there.
“That facility would be a game changer and much needed for our golf program,” he added. “We’re in the best golf conference in the country, and if we want to compete with the likes of Oklahoma State (11 NCAA titles including 2018), Texas and Oklahoma, this is something that Coach Covich needs.”
It one of many improvement plans that are part of Phase 2.
“We have a lot of projects,” said Lyons, who wanted to keep a few things behind the curtain in anticipation of his announcement later this summer. “We’ll roll those out for everyone to see in the next month or so.”
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AD Shane Lyons Interviews: Part I
In our next installment, which is slated for July 10, we’ll get a view on Lyons’ expectations for the Mountaineer football program.