MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — Last week, West Virginia University announced that the Pride Practice Facility project for the Mountaineer Marching Band would be moving to Mylan Park, drawing controversy from donors and alumni who are demanding answers from university officials.
On Tuesday, Oct. 24, Dr. Keith Jackson, the Dean of the WVU College of Creative Arts, wrote a letter to supporters of the Mountaineer Marching Band that looked to answer some of the alumni’s questions.
According to the letter, preparations for the new facility—originally to be located at the old baseball stadium, Hawley Field, near the WVU Coliseum—were met with several issues. Jackson said that priority usage for the band could not be guaranteed and that concerns were raised regarding drainage and whether or not the site would have enough space to build the planned storage facility.
Amid these issues, Jackson said WVU officials approached Mylan Park and offered to build the facility there instead, and a partnership was formed between the two entities “after several conversations.” Jackson emphasized that the donations received will still be used to build the turf field—later said to be named Don Wilcox Field at Mylan Park—and that the university is not using the funds to purchase land.
Jackson said the new field will provide advantages the band has never enjoyed, such as the already-standing Park Pavilion, which the band will be able to use in case of inclement weather. He also said there is more space available for the project’s second phase, which includes a temperature-controlled storage site for instruments, uniforms and equipment.
Jackson said the project will be far more cost-effective and will allow the band to “have an even greater presence in the community,” which he said he believes will “contribute to new partnerships with high school bands creating a new talent pipeline.” He also addressed Mylan Park’s distance from the WVU campuses and said the university is planning accordingly for the “enhanced transportation needs” and will provide details when they are finalized.
In the days following the announcement, donors and band alumni, like former drum major Donovan Kelly (2013-2016), reached out to 12 News with concerns about what they believe are remaining holes in the project plan.
Kelly said that he has concerns about donors not being included in the decision to move the project to Mylan Park and that he believes that the new location creates a “logistical nightmare” for band students given the off-campus location combined with the class’s strict attendance policy.
Other alumni such as Taylor Hall (2012-2015) said that they believe donors should be concerned about the lack of transparency from WVU Band officials, specifically regarding the proposal of shared access with other programs.
Hall cited a WVU Today article written on Nov. 11, 2019, which said the original project at Hawley Field would be “open for use to WVU Athletics and the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences” when the band is not practicing. In 2020, the College of Creative Arts released an update video on YouTube where the current director of the band, Dr. Cheldon Williams, said the field would be “only dedicated to [the band].”
Hall said that she believes that the band’s lack of a dedicated space, despite plans for one, raises concerns that the program may not be being treated like a priority at the university. She said she believes that there is a much larger issue at hand that is “stopping the band staff from pushing harder to get [Hawley Field] back.”
John McPherson, another band alumnus (1975-1978) brought up several of the same issues as the previous two alumni, but also has a concern that donors felt the funds they gave were specifically for the original Hawley Field location and that modifying the project undermines the donors’ original intentions.
12 News reached out to the President of the WVU Alumni Band, John Sinsel, who said the organization does not have an official comment at this time. 12 News has also reached to WVU officials for comment beyond Jackson’s letter, but so far has not received a response.