West Virginia State athletic director Sean Loyd explains the construction plans for the school's new convocation center.
INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- Right now, the members of the West Virginia State athletic department are scattered around campus in Institute like a dispersed army camp, making offices out of rooms in other buildings.This has been a major inconvenience for the staff as a massive renovation/addition project at Fleming Hall has been underway for around a year now.But the payoff at the end of the tunnel is keeping everyone at the school in high spirits despite the current hardships.Construction should be complete around February, so basketball games on the new floor should become a reality late in the season.
"They're fired up," State athletic director Sean Loyd said. "Everybody is just real excited. We've had a lot of challenges in terms of where they've had to set up their offices and things we've had to change in relation to day-to-day procedure. It's been a difficult, difficult time but no one's complained. Everyone knows if we can just suck it up a little bit longer that we're going to get rewarded handsomely in the end because we're going to have a fine facility."The new facility is as impressive in its size and grandeur as it is in its intricacies.When the doors finally do open at Fleming Hall again, students and fans will be entering the modern era of West Virginia State."I just don't think people quite understand what we're doing here," Loyd said. "I think people are probably like, 'Oh, I heard West Virginia State is getting a new gym.' But I really don't think that they have any idea."That "gym" isn't a gym at all as Loyd is quick to point out - it's a convocation center.Now, the center looks more like an airport hangar as it dwarfs the size of the old gym on the second floor of Fleming Hall.The new center will have a capacity of around 1,300 people and will have one court running north to south inside.But the stands, which will have chair backs, will be retractable, creating the ability to have two courts running east to west as well. Loyd said the rims will be retractable, much like those at the Charleston Civic Center, the floor will be made of wood, and protective sheets of interlocking carpet can be used to protect the floor should graduations or other special events be held at the convocation center."Just to be able to have enough space to call something a convocation center, because that's saying that it's big enough to have convocations in," Loyd said. "That's real important for us."While the court may be the centerpiece in the ongoing construction, it is far from the only eye-catching feature of the new facility.The front entrance of the building is also coming into place with a unique design becoming visible. A concession stand, bathrooms and a bookstore selling State merchandise will also sit just inside the main entrance.
Beyond the gym, things get even more modern.The volleyball and men's and women's basketball teams are all getting new locker rooms that will be similar in design.The volleyball locker room, a bit smaller in size, is near completion and features a lobby that will feature flat-screen TV's. The dressing room sits off to the side of the lobby and is circular and features open wooden lockers wrapping around the circumference of the room.Separating the lobby and new rest rooms is a small circular section with the Yellow Jacket logo painted onto the floor."You've got to have stuff like this to compete in the recruiting game," Loyd said. "Kids don't normally notice when something's old that often, but [the old facility] was so dated that it really stuck out. Now we're in a position where things look like they're supposed to look like in 2013."The men's and women's basketball locker rooms will also feature a tiered classroom for film study and team meetings.
Even the baseball locker room got new lockers with locking capabilities to allow players to walk to and from the baseball field without worrying about their things.The old upstairs gym also received some revision with new lights brightening up the room, and the whole facility from top to bottom has new heating and cooling units.Other new features include two renovated classrooms that will hold classes for health sciences, physical education, recreational tourism and more; a full computer lab; new offices for men's basketball coach Bryan Poore, women's coach David Smith, volleyball coach Shannon Gerencir and most other members of the athletic staff; a new training room; a renovated baseball/softball training room with new turf for batting cages; a laundry room; a security room; and an elevator.One of the most interesting rooms sits just off to the side of the training room where athletes will be able to rehab and undergo physical therapy right in the building. That room will also be used for research, as athletes will be monitored and undergo study in activities such as the oxygen consumption test.As construction continues, most of the building has been off limits to the public, but one indicator as to where the process is heading is already towering just behind the end zone on the football field.A massive new scoreboard, complete with video capability, has already been erected and will be ready when the Jackets play their first home game on Sept. 21 against West Liberty."We're looking forward to lighting that thing up this year," football coach Jon Anderson said.This massive overhaul could spring even more facility announcements, although Loyd couldn't comment on anything more on Thursday.For now, what is already going on in Institute has everyone downright giddy."West Virginia State has always been a good school and it has always been a great place to come to," Loyd said. "But I think this new facility can be a center of excellence and a huge point of pride for everyone around here."Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.