After 44 years the WVU Coliseum still remains one of the nation's supreme showcases for college basketball.
Whether it is during the day with the sun shining down on the massive structure, or at night when its golden lights make it an evening showcase, the Coliseum stands as one of the most striking facilities on the WVU campus and played a major role in the expansion of West Virginia's growing Evansdale Campus.
The Coliseum first opened on Dec. 1, 1970 when the Mountaineers played host to Colgate. Nearly 10,000 showed up to see the Mountaineers defeat the Red Raiders, 113-92. Six nights later, West Virginia nearly knocked off fifth-ranked Kentucky before more than 13,000 fans to begin a long history of raucous crowds and unforgettable games.
In 1971, the WVU Coliseum received a major architectural design award from the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Concrete Institute for being the "Outstanding Concrete Structure of the Year."
Through the years, the Coliseum has experienced several upgrades. In 2004, those included: renovations to the men's basketball locker room, renovations to the women's basketball locker room, construction of a players' lounge and team video theater, expansion of the Coliseum strength and conditioning center, expansion of the equipment room and training room, and refurbishment of the Coliseum roof. Construction of a club seating area in the main arena was completed, with private space for concessions, hospitality areas and rest rooms under the lower level seats.
In 2008, state-of-the-art score/video boards complete with high resolution video and expanded messaging capabilities became part of the fan experience at the Coliseum. A partnership between the WVU Foundation and Panasonic allowed the global electronics maker to install two video board systems – one in the Coliseum and one in the football stadium. The system, valued at approximately $5 million, was made available to WVU in part through a generous commitment from alumnus Ben Statler and his wife Jo, and a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. Panasonic, together with WVU, uses the video board systems as a showcase to feature the latest state-of-the-art video and audio technology, officials said. The video board system not only enhances the experience for fans, but more importantly, provide opportunities for increased revenue through advertising.
The Coliseum center-hung video board features a four-sided, LED video replay system. The four video boards provide replays and live event coverage, in-game scoring statistics, special messaging and sponsor advertisements. Two round LED halo boards are located above and below the center-hung scoreboard, and two new LED auxiliary boards are installed behind each basket.
A state-of-the-art directional sound system and lighting system has also been installed in the Coliseum.
In the near future, a Coliseum Marquee at the intersection of Monongahela Boulevard and Patteson will be constructed to help promote West Virginia University events. That project will be funded through WVU's multi-media rights deal with IMG. Plans are also be developed though a $106 million facility master plan to renovate the Coliseum restrooms and concessions, as well as the potential expansion of the concourses to improve the fan experience at home basketball games.
The 14,000-seat domed arena has been the home of Mountaineer cagers for more than four decades, but its many uses include commencement, concerts, conferences, floor shows and a host of educational and athletic events. The Coliseum ranks second only to the Mountainlair (WVU's student union building) in everyday activity.
The Coliseum has hosted conference basketball tournament championships, NCAA basketball, and gymnastics regionals as well as many other tournament events.
Initially constructed in 1970 at a cost of $10.4 million, the Coliseum once served as the home of the WVU School of Physical Education and much of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. It is also the home competition site for Mountaineer women's basketball, gymnastics, wrestling and volleyball teams. Eleven other varsity sports use the facility as their training and equipment headquarters as well.
Nearly 100 offices, 13 lecture and seminar rooms, a dance studio, safety lab, racquetball and squash courts, steam rooms and the Jerry West Mountaineer Room are included in the structure's 10.5 million cubic feet of space. There are also more than 1,000 locker units in various dressing rooms located adjacent to the playing floor. Added accessories such as these help make the building so special, while allowing WVU to host an endless array of events.
A prominent addition has been the WVU All-American display located on the concourse level between the Red and Green Gates. The project recognizes great achievements by Mountaineer athletes in all sports. Ultimately, each sport will have a display area around the Coliseum concourse to tell its story of success. Around the inner concourse of the arena, bronze plaques salute the inductees to the West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame.
At the WVU Coliseum, fan comfort is the utmost priority. Once inside the gates, visitors have immediate and unhindered access to ticket windows, numerous concession areas, water fountains, rest rooms and first aid facilities. All 14,000 blue theater-type seats in the main arena allow for comfortable viewing of any event. The ribbed, rafter-less roof and modern architectural design give a clear, unobstructed view of the playing floor from every seat. Central ventilation units provide climate-controlled comfort in all types of weather.
The Coliseum sound system is so intricate that four lectures can be heard simultaneously without conflict; in fact, classes are often held while 14,000 cheering fans are watching a basketball game.
While fans enter at concourse level, the floor level is the true home of the Mountaineer basketball team. The West Virginia locker room is decorated in the school colors of gold and blue. Wall-to-wall carpet covers the floor and color pictures adorn each player's locker area. A complete video theater was installed before the 2004-05 season in addition to a lounge area, so the cagers can watch their game and practice films on big-screen video with some of the best equipment available.
The Mountaineer basketball offices have moved to the new Basketball Practice Facility, adjacent to the WVU Coliseum. The new facility houses private coaches' offices and completely furnished film rooms for men's basketball head coach Bob Huggins and women's basketball head coach Mike Carey, and their respective staffs and players. Two modern video units with large screen televisions were also installed so that Huggins and Carey have the best to work with while preparing game strategy.
Press row provides 100 seats for members of the media on the concourse level at the Blue Gate. Four television platforms and several radio locations are also strategically situated at different positions around the arena. Known as one of the nation's best, a pregame meal is served to all accredited media in the Jerry West Mountaineer Room, also the site of the media workroom.
Formerly the Mountaineer Lounge, the Jerry West Mountaineer Room was dedicated in December 1988, in honor the University's greatest athlete. The room can be arranged to handle groups from 10 to 150 for meetings. Highlighting the Jerry West Mountaineer Room is the illuminated showcase that flanks the entryway, commemorating West's outstanding career. Pictures from his WVU playing career, game programs, magazine covers, his uniform, the 1959 NCAA basketball, the Kentucky Invitational championship trophy, as well as other memorabilia are displayed to honor West and his days with the Mountaineers. The showcase area has become a popular spot for fans of all ages to pause for a picture and look back on one of the sport's and West Virginia basketball's greatest performers.
When the WVU Coliseum fills with more than 14,000 screaming fans, it becomes an arena unsurpassed in enthusiasm and electricity. The Mountaineers respond to this great home court by making it a very unwelcome place for their opponents. The all-time Coliseum record for men's basketball since 1970 is 487-145, while the women's all-time Coliseum record is 345-149.
West Virginia University is known for its first class athletic facilities, beginning with the construction of the Coliseum in 1970 and strengthened since then with a wide array of structures that meet the demand of a growing major college program. Extensively used by the University and Morgantown community, the WVU Coliseum remains the centerpiece of the athletic facilities that are now such an important part of the WVU Intercollegiate Athletic Program.