By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Talk of a new football stadium on the Mylan Park property for West Virginia University in the wake of its move to the Big 12 and the new television contract is nothing more than talk, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck said Monday, but it is almost certain that there will be a number of improvements made to Milan Puskar Stadium at Mountaineer Field over the next few years.
“The cost of building a new stadium ... it’s enormous. We have no plans on doing that. I’m not sure where that talk got started,” Luck said.
Among the projects being looked into is turning the enclosed boxes that abut the concourse on the press box side of the field into some sort of suites and adding a third floor to the Puskar Center facilities building, Luck admitted in an exclusive interview with the Times West Virginian.
People who have held those box seats in question have already been approached about changing their seating or purchasing the new suites while some big donors have been asked for donations in exchange for naming rights on the proposed third floor.
“There’s a lot of different things we’re looking at over at the stadium, all of which spring from one or two facts,” Luck said, explaining the situation.
“No. 1, the hospital is growing and it’s difficult for us to acquire property over there given the topography and the homes in the area, so we’re looking at means of creating more space in a vertical manner as opposed to a horizontal manner.
“We’re looking at all sorts of things such as another floor on top of the Puskar Building ... what does that cost? Another floor on the Touchdown Terrace in the north end zone ... is that viable and what does it cost?”
And that’s only the beginning of what’s being discussed.
“We’re thinking of the possibility of building a deck that would go out from the Touchdown Terrace because there’s a slope there. That could give us two layers. Below we could park the TV trucks that are now behind the press box; we could have kitchen space,” Luck said.
“One of the reasons we struggle with our food service is there is nowhere to cook. Every stadium built nowadays has kitchen facilities so you can have fresh food. Ours doesn’t have that.”
There is also a need for more parking at the stadium.
“When the hospital builds its 10-story tower, it will take up some of our parking space,” Luck said.
The parking problem may become even more acute due to needs of the football team itself. Dana Holgorsen does not like the indoor practice facility, which is not a full 100 yards long and has a ceiling too low to do special teams kicking in.
That’s become an internal issue that is being kicked around, so to speak.
“We need a second grass field,” Luck also noted, pointing out that the only place that could be put in is in the parking lot.
The big problem with the site is space.
“We’re looking to create more space for the next 30-40 years,” Luck said. “We need additional space on the concourses. There are always lines on the concession stands. We use a lot of volunteer church groups who aren’t professional food service workers, which is one of the reasons some of the lines may be longer.”
This is a problem that was magnified when WVU began selling beer and changed its pass-out policy, not allowing people to go to their tailgate to eat and drink at halftime and return to the stadium.
“Our concession sales are through the roof. The Marshall game last week was the third highest in concession sales of all time,” Luck revealed.
“We need to look into pushing those concourses out to get more space, maybe additional restrooms there.”
If there is anything almost certain it is that the box seats on the press box side will undergo improvements and be sold as some kind of suite.
“Those field boxes were the VIP seats in 1980 when the stadium opened,” Luck noted. “We need to upgrade those — they haven’t been changed at all. So we are talking to the folks who have been sitting there about it. We need better seats, maybe heaters, some TV screens ... maybe not an enclosed suite, but maybe a windshield.
“Those are great seats, but the big complaints we hear come October is it’s cold and windy.”
Luck is certain the school will have no trouble selling those boxes.
“If there’s one thing we could build and fill up tomorrow, it’s suites. We have a waiting list of dozens of people and companies. We don’t have any to sell them,” he said.
“We just sold the Mountaineer Athletic Club suite to a private group and the MAC has moved in with me in my Athletic Director’s Suite. We may take the Athletic Director Suite and divide it into two or three smaller suites.”
So there will be changes. It is just a matter of which changes and when, but the one change you will not have is the construction of a new stadium in Morgantown any time soon.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.