MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — “We’re gonna miss the whole second half!” said the guy in the flying WV hat, stuck in a lengthy men’s room line that was hardly flying.
He was changing pivot feet as he waited, antsy for multiple reasons. It was Wednesday night, during West Virginia’s basketball home finale, but it could have been any night and any Mountaineers game, when lines snaking out of the restrooms deprive fans of game action they paid to see.
The WVU Coliseum, rising iconically from Mon Boulevard, is no longer so stately on the interior. Cramped concourses create body-traffic jams. Fans entering the gates crosscut fans in backed-up concession lines. Simply reaching your seat can feel like chasing Buddy Hield through a sea of moving screens.
But the worst inconvenience by far? The lack of bathrooms.
Some 45 years after the WVU Coliseum opened, it has become a seminal building with a urinal problem.
A 14,000-seat arena equipped with only 62 restroom fixtures probably wasn’t sufficient by 1970 bladder standards, when the entire citizenry apparently was crate-trained. Under today’s codes, the Coliseum’s one fixture per every 225 people is laughable. (New York’s Citi Field opened in 2009 with a 62-to-1 ratio.)
I found a potty-to-person estimate from a construction consultant in a Sports Business Journal on this very matter. He said the rule of thumb “is one urinal for every 80 male spectators, one water closet (toilet stall) for every 200 to 225 men, and one water closet for every 60 women.”
So there was much rejoicing Thursday when West Virginia athletics director Shane Lyons unveiled $15 million worth of renovation plans to modernize the Coliseum. (Peruse conceptual renderings below.)
There’s more to this project—remodeled gameday locker rooms, spruced-up training facilities at the basketball practice building, a mammoth Olympic sports weight room at the Shell building. But the customer-facing upgrades to the Coliseum are what ring loudest when Lyons refers to college athletics as the business of event-management.
Construction crews begin work later this month, so that by the time the Mountaineers tip off next November, the arena will feature 155 bathroom fixtures, more than doubling the current number. Plus the concourses will be widened to alleviate bottlenecks and remodeled to keep pace with aesthetics at other Big 12 arenas. The team shop will have an external entrance. New concession areas, some open throughout the workday, will offer quesadillas, panini sandwiches, mac-n-cheese, chili dogs and pepperoni rolls.
Oh, and did we mention the beer? The taps start flowing next season. (Hey, John Higgins, you thought the fans were bad sober?)
Since Milan Puskar Stadium added beer sales for football games, creating a lucrative new revenue stream, you knew basketball wouldn’t be far behind. Lyons reiterated Wednesday what he told me last month: Alcohol sales are forthcoming but only after the lack of restrooms was remedied.
Obviously, the Coliseum renovations are a relief in more ways than one.