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June 24, 2013
As West Virginia continues its transition from its long-time partnership with the Big East to the Big 12 Conference, one area that will need to be constantly evaluated is facility upgrades and improvements. As part of our continuing series WVSports.com sat down with West Virginia Director of Athletics Oliver Luck to get his thoughts and the latest on the issue.
One of the constant responsibilities of the administration of each school is to survey their athletic facilities and search for potential improvements. And that has only become more essential with the move to a new, more competitive conference.
As the coaching staffs have gone on the road to venues such as Texas, Oklahoma or TCU, they have seen "things they haven't seen before" and that has only opened the door to possibilities for improvement.
"There are lots of new ideas, but obviously at the end of the day we have to prioritize," Luck said.
Currently West Virginia is planning for the new baseball facility that will be funded by the county and state through the TIF, as well as wrapping up the construction of the $2.3 million overhaul to the weight room inside the Puskar Center.
Issues that will be looked at for the football program are both of the team and spectator specific variety.
As for the team related issues, Luck believes that many of the issues are inside the Puskar Building such as renovating the team meeting rooms as well as relocating the hall of traditions from the back of the building to a more assessable spot to the front to allow more access for the public.
There have been some studies looking at the possibility of expanding the current stadium, but Luck believes that there is currently no reason or need to increase the size given the demand and the fact that the state population base is the same as it was when the stadium was initially constructed.
In fact the trend nationwide, outside of a few examples, is to condense stadium size. To prove his point he said that if the Coliseum was going to be constructed today it would be built to hold around 12,000 people instead of the current capacity of over 14,000 fans.
There have been on studies or plans to look at the possibility of a new stadium.
Luck said that due to congestion inside the concourses at Mountaineer Field officials are examining something that Iowa State, which was built by the same construction company and has the same design, did to alleviate space concerns inside of their stadium.
There officials moved the outbuildings around 15-20 feet back to open up more space, while modernizing the concession stands.
Due to buckling on the west side of the stadium, doors jamming and bent conduits, there also has been consideration to eventually tearing up that concourse and rebuilding it.
"It's not as much seating but in the concourses we need to address," Luck said.
The university also will be faced with the issue of lost space due to the continued development of the hospital along with the construction of a new dorm near the current Pierpont apartments and will need to think of ways to develop more of it.
One question that often plagues West Virginia fans on game-days is the lack of quality cell reception and data use on their mobile devices, and Luck said that the university is currently installing a new dash system that should help some with alleviating those concerns. But outside of installing Wi-Fi throughout the entire stadium, a cost of around $3 million, there will be some issues given the number of people inside Mountaineer Field on game days.
"No system is set up to have 70,000 people," he said.
Last season there was talk of adding new signage around Mountaineer Field but the project was delayed because it would be more extensive than it was originally believed to be. That project continues to be on hold until a new rights holder comes in and that's when officials will begin to look at it.
At the Coliseum, the physical activity and sports sciences program is moving out of the building and the challenge will be to figure out how to use that space. Additionally, minor renovations such as more restrooms and concessions will be added to the concourse.
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