After three years of work, West Virginia football’s Milan Puskar Center is just about complete.
The facility underwent $55 million in renovations over that span, bringing improvements to the Hall of Traditions, locker room, training facilities, player lounges, offices and more. These changes were made with the hopes of improving the overall experience for current players, while attracting recruits and generating pride for fans and team members alike.
In fact, Neal Brown believes the Mountaineers are already seeing dividends in the recruiting department.
“We’ve got great momentum in recruiting, I think this is a reason why we have that momentum,” Brown said. “I think this gives us an opportunity to compete. A lot of hard work, a lot of thought put into it, and I’m fired up about really how it’s all turned out.”
Take a look inside the new-look home of WVU football:
The biggest change for fans is at the Hall of Traditions, which houses over a century of WVU football history at the south entrance of the stadium. Since it is accessible to the public, fans can muse all sorts of memorable items from over the years, ranging from old uniforms and cleats to various trophies won by the Mountaineers — there’s even one of Owen Schmitt’s 11 face masks that he broke in his WVU tenure.
There are plenty of interactive aspects to this part of the facility as well — fans can make their own virtual WVU football jersey to share on social media, or they can relive some of the biggest wins in WVU history by touching one of the footballs to display highlights on the big screen.
On recruiting visits, Brown and his staff take prospects down a decorated staircase and through a foyer, which displays different sorts of WVU football swag. Inside the display case are shoes specially decorated by local artists, intended to showcase the spirit of Mountaineer fans.
Recruits are then taken through a pair of sliding glass doors, past a backdrop for photos and into the players’ lounge.
Although the lounge is not quite finished, the team’s new barbershop that his housed within is — marking one of the most unique additions to the facility. Adjacent to the shop will be pop-a-shot (which Brown says was specifically requested by the players), pool and ping-pong tables and TVs for video games. Oh, and there’s a recording studio — just in case the Mountaineers want to drop the newest hit, or give their thoughts in a podcast.
Brown hopes the new lounge will allow players to relax and bond away from the football field.
West Virginia fans already got a look at the team’s new locker room, which opened ahead of the 2020 season — but for the first time, non-team personnel have gotten a look around the room.
Each player gets his own personal locker, which is denoted by the screen on top. Equipped with a cushioned seat and a coded locker, players can store equipment and personal items in nearly every cubic inch of the locker — even behind and under the seat.
A new alumni locker room is tucked in the corner of the main team’s one, featuring six lockers for any former player that wishes to come back to Milan Puskar Stadium. Geno Smith, Kyzir White, Karl Joseph, Bruce Irvin, Will Grier and Quinton Spain are currently on display.
The main locker room is not like the typical locker room at a gym or a high school — it’s clean, and it smells nice. Brown hopes to keep it that way with the team’s new mud room, where players can leave their smelly equipment to get cleaned. After that, the players take a quick rinse and step into the cold tub.
Recovery is essential for West Virginia football, and that takes many forms — whether that is cryotherapy, whole body photobiomodulation, or simply eating right. One of the most popular spots in the whole facility is the hydration and pre/refueling, which is attached directly to the team’s weight room. That stays stocked with all sorts of healthy food and drinks, which is crucial for keeping players in the right shape.
For Mountaineers that need a little bit more recovery, strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph showed off all sorts of tech in the facility. Many players opt for the cryogenic chambers, which have become a mainstay for sporting teams in both the college and the pro ranks. The team is also outfitted with an LED bed for photobiomodulation — another way to help soothe those aches after a tough day on the field or in the gym.
Of course, there’s the white collar aspect of football, and the newly-renovated facility is fully equipped to maximize production in that department. Each position group has its own meeting room, fully equipped with stadium seating, a projector, and decorations that show the greatest players in each position and the records they hold.
There is plenty of space for the coaches, too. With meeting rooms all over the Milan Puskar Center, there is no shortage of space to sit down and go over the gameplan — including the coaches’ conference-like room with white boards to denote the team’s goals moving forward.
Just getting into this new facility is one goal that Brown has achieved, however, and it has led to some sentimental moments — especially as he brings living Mountaineer history through the Puskar Center doors.
“There are three big moments where I was probably a little emotional on it,” Brown said. “First of all was Coach Nehlen came and we showed him around, this was back in the spring when everything was done…but he was of the first person came in here, and he was excited….Then we had our first recruiting weekend, which was a whole different deal, since it was almost 15 months that anybody had been on campus, to be able to open up….And then last week, Bill Stewart’s family — his wife, his son — came over here and were able to tour.”