First, the east side of the stadium is currently undergoing construction to relocate utilities to gain a jumpstart on the offseason construction taking pace in the concourse. As a result, only the main gates of the east side will be accessible this season. In exchange for the inconvenience this year, that side will experience a new concourse starting in the 2016 season as WVU upgrades and updates concessions, restrooms and some fan seating while also widening the entire area for better foot traffic flow. The west side construction and renovations will take place following the 2016 season and be ready for the 2017 year.
The restroom count will double, with 50 percent more concession points of sale. The lines for concessions are expected to be formed in a way that it will not stretch out into the walking area, creating what currently are major “pinch points,” or points where accessibility is difficult. There are also going to be upgrades to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) seating, with elevators from the southern points of the stadium that will give those fans direct access to their seats. Once completed, every entrance will be ADA accessible. WVU will also redo the enclosed suite boxes at the top of the lower stadium seating level to include padded chairs, heaters and televisions, as well as ADA seating. Fans wanting to see an example of the newer suites can look above section 125 (west side, near 50-yard line), where that area will have the complete renovation for the upcoming season.
“This was kicked off when Oliver (Luck) was here,” Messerly said. “The goal of this is to improve the fan experience. Mountaineer Field was built in 1980 and the concourse areas have been relatively untouched since then. We wanted to increase our restrooms, increasing points of sale for concessions, widening concourses and upgrading field boxes. And then accessibility. We have major accessibility issues with our stadium now, and we are looking to that for the future.”
There will also be charging stations for cell phones and other personal electronic devices. During the renovations, fans will see temporarily placed cell phone towers in the concourse. Eventually, both the east and west sides will have an increase in total gates to allow more fans in faster, and wider concourses that should enable sufficiently easier access to all points. ADA seating will also be added in the student section so they may sit with their peers.
“It’s important to remember that all of these changes are for the better, for the future, but just like all kinds of collegiate stadium across America every year, there is construction that goes on even during the season,” Messerly said. “We are not alone in this, but we are going to ask our fans for more patience this year, especially on the east side in getting in pregame.”
Messerly added that because of the lack of secondary gates on the east side for the coming season, the lines might be longer, potentially stretching down the hillsides to the north and south. The east, west and north sides of the stadium (toward the hospital) handle the vast majority of the foot traffic, and fans are reminded that the southern access points (near the IPF and Silver Lot entrance) might be a better way to enter the stadium this season. In addition to the upgraded concourses and fan experience – such as more TVs located throughout the concourse and added sign boards to indicate the locations of certain concessions, first aid, family restroom, etc. – West Virginia also plans to remove the crown from the field and add new turf following this season.
That means there will be no spring game on Mountaineer Field. Various alternate locations for the Gold-Blue game are being discussed, Director of Athletics Shane Lyons said. WVU will also place artificial turf on the current grass practice field, essentially giving the football team more than three fields worth of practice space that can be utilized quite often even with poor weather.
The changes for this upcoming season to the east side also mean a change in the football team’s pregame Mantrip. The trip will still originate on the eastern side of the stadium, but the team will now be dropped off toward the left side of the light blue lot (the “D” or upper parking area for the hospital) and proceed through the light blue lot and onto the east gate walkway access, then through the main gates of the east side, as opposed to entering through the north gates as the team has the last few seasons.
Once the renovations are completed on both sides, again by the start of the 2017 season, the walkways around the stadium will not be clogged with busses or vehicular traffic taking those with disabilities into the west side access points, as there will be access points toward the south ends. That will allow for easier access for all fans, as well as eliminating the need to mix vehicular and pedestrian traffic, which Messerly said was a safety concern for all.
Check out more of the continuing construction on the east side below: