MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into athletic facilities improvements over the past decade in projects both big and small.
There have been huge renovations within Mountaineer Field, football’s Puskar Center, the WVU Coliseum and the conversion of the Natatorium into the Olympic Performance Center. There have also been entirely new facilities with the construction of the Basketball Practice Facility, baseball’s Mon County Ballpark, The Aquatic Center at Mylan Park and the new outdoor track complex at Mylan Park.
Smaller projects include landscaping, painting and a video board addition to the Indoor Practice Facility, along with the building of separate practice complexes for both the men’s and women’s soccer teams, and a myriad of other works of which there are too many to catalog.
In the world of major college athletics, though, the building and renovations never cease.
As WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons has seen the work at the Puskar Center and the Olympic Performance Center just about come to an end, he’s already starting a new wish list. This one also shoots high – sky-high – with the possibility of a significant change to the press box at Mountaineer Field.
Previous articles in this series with Shane Lyons
Now, this is still in the imagination phase right now, but before a project can become a reality, it has to begin with an idea.
“In terms of football and its future, I need to explore additional premium seating,” stated Lyons. “If we do that, now we’re talking about a $100 million investment. But what would that mean for our football program? Do we have the need for our donors to have more suites, maybe smaller suites as opposed to the larger suites we have now? It also would provide us with a new press area. That’s something I would like to look at at some point, but that’s a big-ticket item.”
There are currently 30 luxury suites in Mountaineer Field divided between the 12 in the press box, 16 in Touchdown Terrace on the north end and two in the Puskar Center on the south end.
As Lyons often says, almost any project is possible if you have the right combination of time and money, and certainly adding additional suites to Mountaineer Field would take a large amount of both. His thought is build out onto each side of the current press box, allowing room for dozens of new suites.
“We’ve looked at both sides of the stadium in terms of east and west, and it appears because of infrastructure that we already have on the west side, that would probably be where we would build it,” explained Lyons of the press box addition during an exclusive interview with the Blue & Gold News. “Construction always causes inconveniences, but the end result is where we should focus.
“If we had the funds and could do it, I’d do it on the west side where (the current press box) already is. We would lose a little bit of seating from the top rows, because you would need to cut those off to make club areas with outdoor seating,” added the 1987 WVU grad. “You would build up three levels from there. I call it end zone-to-end zone but in practical terms, it may be the 10-yard line to the 10-yard line. Still, it would almost be the whole length of the field, and it would feature some of the newer types of press areas that you see elsewhere.”
Though Lyons has a vision of what he wants, it’s still just a dream at this point.
“We don’t have anything on the books yet in terms of accurate projections for the actual costs. I’m just roughing those numbers,” he noted. “When I talk about revenue streams, though, that’s a revenue stream we currently don’t have compared to some of our counterparts with things like the number of suites, which can generate additional revenue.
“You always hear that it takes money to make money. We’re going to eventually have to spend some money in the future to look at getting that built. If we can turn Mountaineer football into contenders in the Big 12 year in and year out and also compete for a spot in the 12-team playoff, Mountaineer Nation will step up and have a chance to do something like that in the future.”
The construction of additional suites at Mountaineer Field is just one of many projects on Lyons’ wish list, though the others don’t come with the same huge price tag as nearly doubling the size of the current press box.
“Parking is still a need at the Coliseum, and we have plans for that,” said Lyons in reference to turning the old outdoor track next to the Coliseum and Shell Building into a parking area. The old track is no longer needed because of the construction of the new one at Mylan Park. “It’s just a matter of getting to the financial point we can do it. “Our plan is to remove the track and building the parking lot there. We also want to add parking on the back side of Dick Dlesk (Soccer Stadium).”
Also within the Coliseum complex, Lyons has other projects in mind.
“With the Olympic Performance Center being completely renovated and updated, what’s left out there is the Shell Building. That’s definitely outdated,” he noted. “That’s another project we would like to do in the future. We have some rough numbers for what it’s going to take to update that – paint it, lay a new surface and improve that facility.
“Some of the other renovation projects I would like to see are some improvements to Cary Gym,” he said of the practice facility for the women’s gymnastics team. “We have some gifts we’re starting to receive to make improvements to our gymnastic facility.”
One of the big projects that was part of Lyons’ vision a few years ago has since changed. WVU purchased White Day Golf Course in 2018 with the thought of turning its 93 acres into a start-of-the art practice facility for the Mountaineer golf team. Lyons has pivoted from that concept, though.
“We had the White Day Course, but we’ve turned and sold that. We just didn’t feel that was the place we needed to be,” stated Lyons. “We’re now working through an agreement with Pete Dye (Golf Club in Bridgeport) to see if we can do some things there. It would be a one-stop shop in terms of a practice facility and a playing facility. We’re doing some things moving forward there.”
Even though Lyons has overseen significant athletic facilities improvements in his seven years leading the Mountaineers, he hopes not to let the cranes and bulldozers sit idle for very long.
“Time and money – if we can have those two play in our favor, we will do things moving forward,” said WVU’s A.D.
(This is part of a series of articles with Shane Lyons derived from his exclusive interview with the Blue & Gold News. Further stories covering a wide variety of topics will be published in the future.)