Lyons Looks Back On Phase 1 Of WVU’s Facilities Renovations
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 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 provide a perspective on Lyons’ view on those topics. We start off with a look back on the Phase 1 of West Virginia’s athletic facilities renovations.
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The athletic facilities at West Virginia University have undergone some significant changes in the past decade. The construction of the basketball practice facility and the Mon County Ballpark for baseball were followed by a new team room at the Puskar Center and a complete refurbishment of the football practice field. Then came major changes in the fan areas at the WVU Coliseum and Mountaineer Field, which created larger concourses at each site with new concession stands and restrooms. The construction is still ongoing at Mylan Park, where a new aquatics center for the swim team and a new track & field facility are now both taking shape.
But don’t expect the jackhammers and cement trucks to depart WVU anytime soon. Just as Phase 1 of the facilities master plan is nearing completion, West Virginia’s director of athletic Shane Lyons prepares to announce Phase 2. This will include more renovations at the Puskar Center and within the Coliseum, as well as to other athletic facilities at WVU.
“I’m really pleased with everything that we have right now,” explained Lyons. “I think we all were hoping we could have gotten some of the things done faster, but I’m pleased with what we have. Phase 1 is what I call the fan enhancement aspect of the renovations. What we’ve done at the football stadium and at the Coliseum, with the new concessions, new restrooms and easier fan flow though each facility has been remarkable. I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback. Esthetically I think each facility is the best they’ve ever looked.
“We do fan surveys about what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong,” he added. “We utilize those as we make our decisions. We may never be perfect, but we do look at those and try to improve. People always talk about parking, and I realize that’s an issue, particularly for football and basketball. That’s not just unique to Morgantown. Those parking issues are true at any college campus for a big event. I think we did some great things in terms of parking at the Coliseum when it comes to ingress and egress. We’re emptying this lot in less than 30 minutes in most cases, which is pretty remarkable.
“Also the quality and variety of the food at our concessions stands have been well-improved. I think we’ve done a lot of things as part of Phase 1 to improve the fan experience.”
Some recent improvements do focus on the student-athlete, and it’s not just about facilities.
“We’ve recently added a second nutritionist,” noted Lyons. “With how our campus is split up, we thought it best to have one nutritionist who strictly at football and one who works here (at the Coliseum). It was getting increasingly difficult to have one person go back and forth.”
When Phase 1 of the WVU athletic facilities master plan was unveiled a little more than four years ago, it came with an estimated $106 million price tag. And Lyons was not yet West Virginia’s director of athletics, as Oliver Luck held the position at that time.
Over time, and with Lyons putting his own stamp on the plan, some things have changed. Most of the projects remained the same, though, and many have now been completed, especially in terms of the fan enhancements at the Coliseum and stadium.
Two more major pieces to Phase 1 should be finished in the next year or so.
“I’m told the track will ready this September, and then the aquatics center will be finished in September of 2019,” explained Lyons. “We’re excited to start utilizing both those.”
The track and aquatics center at each located in Mylan Park, which is about four miles east of the Coliseum on Chaplin Hill Road.
“Our goal is to be able to hold a variety of events at the aquatics center,” Lyons explained. “That’s a community facility as a whole, so it’s not just for us. But the hope is we can hold the Big 12 championship there, as well as other events like US swim meets, junior meets, meets for smaller kids and other events for this region. It will have great spectator seating and capabilities. It’s our goal to utilize that for a variety of events.”
By the time the aquatics center is completed and Phase 1 is wrapped up, the renovations Phase 2 will likely be underway.
We’ll look at Phase 2 with West Virginia’s director of athletic in our next installment on Thursday.