West Virginia facility improvements move closer to reality

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's athletic department released the framework Thursday for its $106 million proposal for renovations throughout the athletic campus, including upgrades to Milan Puskar Stadium and WVU Coliseum.

The athletic facilities master plan, which was already approved by the University Planning Committee, now moves to the Board of Governors finance committee, which will discuss the proposal at its March 28 meeting.

The linchpin of the plan is an $85 million bond package, about $75 million of which would be earmarked for athletic facilities improvements. In addition, the plan draws $25 million from private Mountaineer Athletic Club funding efforts and $6 million from its multimedia rights contract.

The bond package is made possible, according to the athletic department's proposal, by guaranteed annual revenue from IMG, West Virginia's official media partner, and the Big 12 Conference.

Big 12 member schools received a payout of $26 million in 2013. In contrast, West Virginia's annual payout from the Big East in 2012, its final year in the conference, was approximately $8 million.

In November, West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen said the wish list he had delivered to the administration included proper weight-training, meeting and practice facilities. He had already gotten one, as the weight room was renovated last summer.

"I don't think I'm being unreasonable with the requests that I'm asking for," Holgorsen said at the time. "We're working hard on trying to get out there to raise the money that we need to make some of this stuff a reality."

A new team meeting room is priority No. 1 in the proposal, the first of several initial projects that center on the football program.

The plan also calls for the renovation and expansion of the concourses, restrooms, entrance gates and concession areas at Milan Puskar Stadium, all funded by the bond.

Other initial projects include IMG-funded installation of four LED video boards, additional graphic coverage of the walls surrounding Mountaineer Field and a video marquee at the corner of Monongahela Boulevard and Patteson Drive beside WVU Coliseum.

Iowa City-based Heery International has been contracted to do the design work. The corporation has led projects at Southern Mississippi's M.M. Roberts Stadium, Albany's Bob Ford Field and Georgia Dome and Turner Field in Atlanta, among others.

The proposal lists a number of additional projects that are under consideration but are not immediate priorities should the finances be approved.

Foremost among the secondary projects are the renovation of WVU Coliseum restroom and concession areas, the expansion of Coliseum concourses and the addition of inner concourse suites and box seating.

Other potential projects across the athletic campus include: renovation and new indoor track at Shell Building; addition of varsity sports locker rooms and weight rooms; renovation of WVU Natatorium; renovation of varsity tennis courts; repurposing of Hawley Field, the Mountaineers' former baseball field.

In October, the athletic department broke ground on a $20 million package secured through state legislature and county-approved tax increment financing districts to build the Monongalia County Baseball Ballpark.

Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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