By Ryan Decker, Originally written for West Virginia Sports: Morgantown and Beyond
Friday night the WVU Coliseum opened its doors for the first time for the 2016-2017 college basketball season.
Renovations have been going on inside the Mountaineers basketball facility since last season ended, and although WVU volleyball fans have seen the renovation process come along since their season started in late August, this was the first time that a large crowd has been inside since the process began in April.
But what did the fans think? And what actually has changed inside the outer exterior of the Coliseum? I’m glad you asked.
“Fantastic! Love it,” longtime WVU fan and former student Jeff Palmer said. “We saw the video tour on line last night. Love the wide concourses. Love the way the doors went out. Just the entering experience is a whole lot better than it was before.”
Palmer went on to say that the extra room that was created by the contractors in charge of the renovation process is what will make getting in and out of the Coliseum easier.
“It’s all spread out,” Palmer said. “We were able to go right up to a door, open the door and come right through the gates. Much more convenient for the fans.”
Fellow longtime Mountaineer fan, and former student, John Childress has been coming to WVU games for 48 years. He keyed in on one specific area that was in definite need of a touch up.
“The restrooms, they probably needed renovations since the first day it opened.”
He continued that overall a change was needed.
“It’s something that’s been needed for a long time,” said Childress, a native of McDowell County. “More space, easier for people to move around, much better.”
The video tour that Palmer mentioned was done by the “Voice of the Mountaineers” Tony Caridi and WVU Athletic Director Shane Lyons a few days prior to Friday night’s game. Fans can watch that video here:
A look at renditions of the completed process can be seen in the video of the presentation that Lyons gave earlier this year.
Some of the most noticeable changes include updated, wider entrance points – some of which have been renamed (the former Red Gate is now called the Country Roads Gate) – updated bathrooms, and new concession stands.
Eating is obviously very important for the fans at sporting events.
The new-look Coliseum has brand new concession stands with more access points and different names – two being “Country Roads Cafe” and the “Wild and Wonderful Canteen”. For Mountaineer fans 21 years-old and older, there are now beer taps on hand.
Some fans, however, weren’t totally behind the process of the new grab-and-go-type concession stand, stating that it was confusing to navigate, and payment lines could’ve been explained better.
Graphics were also added to improve the once-all-concrete look of the building.
“The color blast is amazing,” Palmer said, who noted he spent a number of his days as a physical education major inside the Coliseum during his days as a student. “The lighting, you can tell, is a whole lot better in here. It doesn’t look drab out here anymore. It’s been due. It was time to renovate.”
Childress agreed the graphics were a nice touch.
“It looks really good, especially outside. I like the fact that they have the large illuminated sings above the gates. I thought that was a good touch.”
Other improvements include renumbers the sections of seats and new LED boards around entrance points from the concourse to the seating bowl.
Renovations to the concourse area of the Coliseum will continue to go on through November, with plans to be done in December, completing Phase 1 of the process.
Phase 2 of the $23 million face lift will begin after the Mountaineers season is over next spring. That phase will mainly center around improving seating in the bowl of the Coliseum, which currently seats roughly 14,000 spectators.
“This has always been a great place to watch a game, and there really aren’t any bad seats,” Childress said. “Even when I was in school here, there weren’t bad seats. It’s a fun place and a good atmosphere. I don’t think they’re going to do anything to hurt that atmosphere. The touches, the signs, it’s icing on the cake. It’s a good thing.”