MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Renovations worth $55 million bring with them plenty of functionality but also a great deal of eye-popping flash as well as some unique bells and whistles.
The West Virginia University department of athletics spent the past 19 months redoing the Puskar Center, which is the operations hub for Mountaineer Football.
Much of the 85,000 square foot building was torn down to the studs and completely rebuilt. The renovation work is now almost complete, and the Puskar Center is about ready for the upcoming 2021 season.
“We’re very, very proud of this facility,” said WVU head coach Neal Brown, as he was leading a media tour of the renovated Puskar Center Tuesday afternoon. “It has flash; it has functionality. It was rebuilt for a few reasons – for our current players because they deserve it, for recruiting because that’s a huge issue, and for our former players and coaches.”
About the only areas that weren’t redone were the weight room (a makeover Brown says is on a future wish list), the two-year-old cafeteria, the west-wing team room, which was constructed in 2015, the Hartley Club and the Reynolds Family Academic Performance Center. Even most of those places received fresh paint and plenty of new graphics.
The rest of the building was completely redone, starting with the Hall of Traditions, which is now the main entrance to the Puskar Center. Previously that Hall housing Mountaineer football memorabilia was in the back of the facility and often was inaccessible to the public. Now it is in the front and will be open to fans on a regular basis.
Behind the Hall of Traditions lies the working inner sanctum for WVU football, from offices to meeting rooms, a players’ lounge, locker rooms, medical facilities, strength and recovery areas, food and hydration stations and much, much, much more.
Video boards, graphics and other displays abound throughout the building. Lighting most everywhere is capable of changing colors and even strobing to a variety of frequencies, if that is desired. Technology updates are common throughout the renovations.
The flow of the facility was done with great thought, even including the path the players take once they enter the building after practice. Brown likens it to a car wash, starting with a “mud room,” where the players strip off their sweatiest, stinkiest items – shoes, shoulder pads and helmets – and place them in specific ventilated spots so they can dry. From there, the players move through a spray that washes off the black rubber pellets often left on their bodies by action on the playing and practice surfaces. Then it’s a walk-though cold tub followed directly by the shower room. Finally, the path ends in the locker room, which features 124 individual lockers, each topped by a display with that player’s photo, his name, uniform number and hometown. The lockers all have a variety of storage areas, as well as the necessity of modern life – a built-in USB charging port and an indutive chargins surface too.
Off the weight room, there is a recovery area that features two photobiomodulation beds – think tanning beds but with red and near infrared lights that recalibrate a body’s cells in an outcome described as similar to acupuncture – and a pair of cryotherapy chambers that uses liquid nitrogen to provide extreme cooling effects to the body, similar to a cold tub, only faster.
Those are some of the functional additions to the Puskar Center, but there are also new areas that provide opportunities for fun or rest. The players’ lounge contains plenty of big-screen TVs, as well as WV-monogrammed chairs, a pool table, two pop-a-shot basketball shooting games and a ping pong table. The lounge also is adjacent to a recording studio, where a player can tape music, a podcast or whatever he likes, as well as a barbershop and a sleep area. The sleep room features a couple of egg-shaped sleep pods, some massage chairs and a number of zero-gravity recliners in a space large enough for about 15 people who want to relax between meetings, practices or whatever.
“There are three big moments where I was probably a little emotional,” explained Brown in regard to showing off the renovated facility. “First, Coach (Don) Nehlen came in the spring and looked around. We didn’t have all the finishing touches done then, but he was one of the first people in here, and it was exciting to show him the displays and some of the work.
“Then we had our first recruiting weekend (at the beginning of June). We were able to open our doors and bring (the recruits) through this facility.
“Then last week, Bill Stewart’s family – his wife and son – came over here, and we gave them a tour, so that was neat,” concluded WVU’s third-year head coach.
In a building that first opened along with the new stadium in 1980, the changes are striking for the young recruits as well as those who had previously been in the Puskar Center many, many times.