West Virginia announces details of athletic facilities upgrades

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When West Virginia moved from the Big East to the Big 12 in 2012, athletic director Oliver Luck asked his coaches to pay close attention to athletic facilities at other Big 12 schools. One day, he hoped, their feedback and insights would help mold the long-overdue renovation of the Mountaineers’ athletic campus.

That day, it appears, has arrived.

Luck unveiled the athletic department’s $106 million facilities renovation proposal at a news conference Tuesday at WVU Coliseum. The plan is awaiting approval from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, which meets April 25.

“Mon County is booming,” Luck said of West Virginia’s Monongalia County. “It’s an exciting time to be able to say we’re injecting $125 million of capital improvements into the local community.”

The plan will be funded by a $75 million bond made possible by guaranteed revenue from the Big 12 Conference, $25 million raised by the Mountaineer Athletic Club and $6 million from West Virginia’s multimedia rights contract with IMG.

The current proposal does not include the building of a new baseball park, a $20 million project expected to open next February. It will be the Mountaineers home field and, perhaps, home to a minor league team.

Without the affiliation with the Big 12, which paid nearly $30 million to each member school in 2013, the proposal would be unrealistic.

“It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in mathematics to run those numbers,” Luck said.

At least 50 percent of funds will be directed to the football program and upgrades to Milan Puskar Stadium, he said. Immediate projects include building a new team meeting room, which has a tentative completion date of mid-December, and renovating the entrances and concourses within the next two years.

The stadium has held up thanks to “preventative maintenance,” Luck said, but fans deserve a better stadium experience. That will be helped with the edition of a new scoreboard in the north end zone and new video boards in each corner of the stadium.

Crews will also work to eliminate the stadium’s “significant problem” of pyrite buildup on doors and walkways, Luck said. Two years ago, he recalled, the play clock wouldn’t function for a quarter of a game because pyrite had bent the conduit housing the wires.

Among projects “a couple years down the pipe,” Luck said, are major renovations to the WVU Coliseum, the site of basketball games, wrestling, volleyball and gymnastics matches.

This summer, the College of Physical Activity and Sports Science will move from the first floor of the Coliseum to a new location, allowing the athletic department to take the vacated classroom and office space and expand the concourses.

Luck said the arena is currently 102 restroom units and 21 concession units short of what is needed for a building of that capacity.

A primary concern, too, is the removal of all traces of asbestos from the Coliseum. During the 1999-2000 season, West Virginia played home games in Charleston, Wheeling and Fairmont while asbestos was removed from the Coliseum. Luck said some asbestos still remains.

“We need to move prudently but carefully,” he said. “We do believe that’s an important priority here.”

Two other projects at the forefront will be renovations to the multipurpose Shell Building and to build a visiting locker room at the Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.

“There’s nowhere else our [teams] go where they have to spend halftime in a tent,” Luck said. “I don’t think it reflects well on us.”

Luck said that the proposal is a sign West Virginia has shifted from survival mode to spend mode and will result in a “very timely injection of money to update and renovate and rejuvenate our facilities.”

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

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

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