WVU Facilities: “We Are Probably Tenth In The League From A Football Operations Center Standpoint”
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia director of athletics Shane Lyons unveiled a new facilities master plan for the Mountaineer athletic program on Thursday morning, and dropped a couple of stunning statements concerning the state of West Virginia’s athletic facilities. Topping the list was this: “I can tell you that with a lot of our facilities, we are not where we need to be in order to be successful. If you look nationally, we are getting way behind. In the league, to be completely candid, we are probably tenth in the league from a football standpoint, from an operations center standpoint. No one wants to be last, and as your director of athletics I don’t want to be last.”
To be clear, Lyons wasn’t referring to the on-field performance of the football team. Instead, it was a description of the state of all of the facilities in and around Milan Puskar Stadium, which has undergone a number of refurbishments and improvements over the past couple of years but which still has much to be addressed. The addition of a new team room in 2016 and the just-opened new training table and athletic training area are on par with any in the league, but there is still much work to be done.
“We have pieces that are as good as anyone’s,” Lyons said in describing the state of the Mountaineer football complex. “But overall, we have a number of improvements that need to be made. We want to invest to allow out student-athletes to be able to compete and train at the highest level. It will help the future success of our athletic program.”
Included in that list — which Lyons terms as ‘needs’, not ‘wants’ — is a doubled-in-size home locker room, including improvements in ventilation, renovations to the coaches’ offices and players position meeting rooms, updates to the players lounge and a larger academic center. Almost all of the additions and changes, outside of the move of the football Hall of Traditions, are student-athlete oriented, and even that one is a necessary first modification which will allow some of the other changes and renovations to take shape.
“It’s important to note the Puskar Center is a phasing approach so each domino has to fall before the next one begins,” Lyons explained. “You can’t start with one project without phasing onto something else.”
Moving the Hall of Traditions and the visiting locker room will allow many of the other changes to take place, but it will be a stair-stepped process, and one entirely dependent on donations. The initial changes will begin after the conclusion of the 2018 football season, but will stretch over the next 4-5 years. In all, $55 million of the proposed $100 million in renovations will be dedicated to football, with the vast majority of that focused on student-athlete needs.
“We understand that if we don’t move forward, we are moving backwards,” Lyons said. “Football is competing at a high level, and we need to keep them competing at a high level.”
The challenge now is raising the money. West Virginia has benefited from the increased payouts it has received as a member of the Big 12 Conference, but that money has already been earmarked. Much of it is used for yearly operational costs, such as funding of scholarships, maintenance and yearly sport expenditures, while the rest is dedicated to debt service on the $116 million that was borrowed to finance the most recent round of updates. WVU hopes to raise the entire $100 million for this plan entirely from donations, which is the most aggressive athletic fundraising program in Mountaineer history. As Lyons notes, though, it has to be done, or West Virginia will continue to fall behind in the facilities game.
“This is not an arms race. These are sorely needed projects,” Lyons emphasized. “We are not doing anything extravagant. Our plan is to fundraise very, very aggressively. We need to take what we have and make it better.”