MORGANTOWN — The WVU football program is doing what it can to keep up with the arms race across college football, upgrading the facilities in the Puskar Center with $55 million worth of renovations.
On Tuesday, head coach Neal Brown guided a tour showcasing most of the completed projects and a few still under construction.
With a player-centric approach, as well as major recruiting tool, here are a few of the major upgrades around the football facility.
“I’m excited about it,” Brown said. “We’ve got great momentum in recruiting and I think this is a reason why. I think this gives us a chance to compete.”
Hall of Traditions
Previously tucked back in the depths of the Puskar Center, the Hall of Traditions is now front and center, the first thing visitors see when they pull into the parking lot.
Behind tall glass windows are interactive tools, such as uniform customizations, videos voiced over by Tony Caridi with classic moments in program history, team records and history. Memorabilia and trophies are prominently displayed in cases, and deputy athletic director Keli Zinn said room was left to expand, if needed.
After players (and recruits) enter through the Hall of Traditions, they wind down a stairwell with a coal and WVU theme to the players’ lounge, but at the bottom of the stairs is a showcase filled with rewards players can earn for different in-team competitions, such as customized clothing and shoes. Just inside the door is a large black Flying WV that can change its back-lighting, used for recruiting photos.
Still under construction, the lounge will feature a barber shop, pool table, ping pong, video games, a kitchen and an arcade basketball game.
Off the lounge is a sleeping room for players to nap and rest. It includes sleep pods, massage chairs and zero gravity chairs under a fake star-lit sky.
Brown said a recording studio is in the works where players can record music and podcasts.
Players have soft lockers, where they can pick up equipment for the day and ask equipment manager Dan Nehlen for whatever else they need.
Next door is the locker room, loaded with all the bells and whistles, including flashing lights, video board and a music sound system. At each individual locker is a photo of the player, locked storage compartments, phone-charging stations and cooling systems.
In the middle of the room is space for pregame and halftime talks so the team can gather as a whole.
An NFL locker room was added, giving a space for current pros who return to town a place store their belongings.
Mud room and cool-down pool
To keep odor out of the locker room, a mud room is the first place players enter after games and practices. There are benches to undress and remove tape, and special places to store equipment with ventilation systems to push odor out of the locker room.
A jet-drying system is in place next. Rubber pellets from the turf practice field and Mountaineer Field surface are removed here, and players then take a walk through the cool-down pool before hitting the showers.
While not as significant as the downstairs renovations, the lobby of the team room received a facelift with a welcome desk and a WVU version of ESPN’s College GameDay desk.
The rest of the upstairs featured coaches’ offices, position meeting rooms, academic facilities and a new studio for virtual visits and in-house productions.
As Brown called it, “curb appeal” was a big part of the upgrades, with the Puskar Center getting a facelift from the outside. Tinted windows go the length of the building, while the parking lot is freshly paved with newly painted parking lines. Speed bumps and crosswalks extend down Ira Errett Rodgers Drive.