Should WVU consider building a new football stadium?


Billboards around Morgantown remind us that “Big things are coming” as WVU transitions into the Big 12 conference.  One hot topic right now is the future of Mountaineer Field.  This season will mark the 33rd season of football played at Mountaineer Field.

While Mountaineer Field is a great place to watch a football game, the facility’s age is starting to show, and the currently location lacks adequate traffic flow and parking.

Most people (including Athletic Director Oliver Luck) agree that upgrades to Mountaineer Field are necessary as WVU moves into the Big 12.  WVU has already put out a proposal to spruce up stadium walls with gold and blue banners and performed upgrades to the team’s meeting areas in the Puskar Center.  Luck has also mentioned some larger projects to make the stadium more fan friendly:

"“With the west and the east concourse, we need to get more space, especially now that there’s the no more pass-out policy. At halftime fans want to get a soda or a beer, and the concourses are jammed whenever you walk past,” Luck said. “We’re looking at some plans to expand the concourse and move some of those buildings out further.”"

Head Coach Dana Holgorsen has also mentioned some things on his wish list, including larger grass practice fields and a new indoor practice facility:

"[Holgorsen] can only use the grass practice field for about two weeks before the turf is too damaged to continue. He said the indoor practice facility “doesn’t exist, unless it’s offseason conditioning,” because it has a 70-yard field and a low ceiling that prevents any type of constructive kicking or punting.The Mountaineers are instead left with the stadium, and that’s not ideal, either.“First, it’s not big enough,” he said. “It’s a field-and-a-quarter when everybody in the world has at least two full practice fields. We’re tripping over each other in there."

Obviously, any project as large as moving buildings to expand the concourses and building new practice facilities is probably 5 years away, at best.  However, there’s one glaring problem: real estate around the stadium and hospital areas is difficult to come by. The recent announcement that WVU Hospital is expanding and building a new tower means that there will be even less space around the stadium to expand (and less parking for football).

With the football program and the hospital both wanting more space, there’s only one viable long term solution:  someone has to move.  And I’d bet my life savings that it won’t be the hospital (nor should it be).

As much as I love having the football field in town and on campus, eventually you have to come to the conclusion that it is in the best long term interest of both the football program and the hospital that the football program moves to a new location.  So maybe it’s time to stop thinking about upgrading Mountaineer Field and to start thinking about where to build a new stadium.

A potential location would ideally have the following characteristics:

  • Be on or close to campus
  • Have plenty of room for practice fields and an indoor practice facility
  • Have plenty of room for parking
  • Have easy access to an interstate

Unfortunately, it does not appear likely that there would by any space large enough on campus to accommodate a new football stadium and facilities.  But, there are areas on the outskirts of Morgantown that could be developed into good sites for a stadium.  Places that come to mind would be the Westover/Mylan Park area and the Granville area, close to the proposed location of a new baseball stadium.

Whether WVU decides to build a new stadium and facilities or upgrade what we currently have, WVU will need to come up with some creative ways to use the available space.  Upgrades to the current stadium could be performed incrementally over time.  However, a new stadium would likely take 10-15 years to plan, secure funding, and ultimately execute.  If the conclusion is that a new stadium is the best option, the time to start that process is now.