While still in the late planning stages, West VirginiaUniversitys ResearchPark is beginning to take shape as start-up companies are expressing interest in locating at the soon-to-be-developed site on 100 acres of land off Route 705, said WVU s Vice President for Research John Weete.

Dr. Weete, appearing today (Nov. 8) before the Business Affairs Committee of the WVU Board of Governors, said the park will complement current research and economic development activities of private and government entities along I-79, while facilitating the economic development role of the University.

One of the primary objectives, he noted, is creating a stimulating environment for technology development and entrepreneurial activity that results in commercialization success �€particularly those relating to the research and technology strengths of the University such as medical/biomedial technology, homeland security, forensics and biometrics, advanced materials, information security and others.

The first phase of the Research Park �€with the timing dependent on a number of factors including funding �€will consist of building sites that provide 250,000 square feet of space, plus the infrastructure needed for the site (such as bringing in water, sewage and power). In addition, a 25,000-square-foot facility will be constructed to house a business incubator to promote entrepreneurialism and provide business services to the small businesses in the park.

As anchor tenants move in and the momentum grows, Weete said the eventual goal for the park is to have multi-tenant buildings totaling approximately 650,000 square feet of space.

�€?It is fully expected that the WVUResearchPark will become a self-sufficient, cost-effective, world-class center of research, technology development, commercialization and business activity resulting from strong links between the park occupants and the intellectual capital of WVU ,�€? Weete said. �€?The powerful result of this initiative will be enhanced cultural and economic prosperity of Morgantown and West Virginia.�€?

The committee also heard a report from Department of Intercollegiate Athletics officials Ed Pastilong and Russ Sharp describing an $18 million plan to modernize and improve existing facilities. The plan, approved by the full Board, calls for:

  • Renovations to the Coliseum mens and womens basketball and womens volleyball locker rooms; upgrades to various strength, conditioning, treatment and equipment/storage areas; and the addition of Club seating on the Coliseums lower floor level. Estimated cost and completion date: $7 million; December 2004.
  • Improvements to the lobby and public areas of the PuskarCenter. Estimated cost and completion date: $1.5 million; December 2005.
  • Construction of a two-story, 19-suite structure in the north end zone of Mountaineer Field, increasing ADA accessible seating and providing ADA accessible restrooms in that seating area. Estimated cost and completion date: $8 million; August 2004.
  • Grandstand seating for 1,800 at mens and womens soccer stadium, with ADA accessible seating and parking. Estimated cost and completion date: $1.5 million; June 2004.

Funding for the facilities improvements will come from private contributions, bond financing and revenue from the stadium suites. The projects are part of the departments strategic direction that calls for, among other priorities, the unit to maintain its status as self-supporting.

After delaying a vote at its September meeting, the Board also approved a much debated and revised policy regarding freedom of expression and use of facilities that officials say confirms the Universitys commitment to free speech, assembly and open dialogue.

The new policy, which goes into effect immediately, eliminates a provision that groups of 50 or more must congregate in one of WVU s designated outdoor assembly areas. Instead, groups are encouraged, but are not required, to reserve one of the areas if they want to guarantee a specific area.

The policy applies to WVU s regional campuses as well, with the stipulation that each campus designate its own outdoor assembly areas and outdoor and indoor reservation procedures.

A University ad hoc committee of faculty and students began reviewing WVU s previous policy on free speech during the 2001-02 academic year and, in March, adopted an interim policy that was again updated in July.

To view the final Policy on Freedom of Expression and Use of Facilities go to:http://www.nis.wvu.edu/2002_Releases/freedomofexpression.html

In other action, the board approved:

  • WVU and regional campus Compacts to be submitted to the Higher Education Policy Commission;
  • an associate in applied science degree in early childhood development at WVU Parkersburg to meet the needs of the childcare profession in the Parkersburg service area;
  • the planning of a $3 million facility to house the educational programs and administrative offices of the Eastern Division Clinical Campus of the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center in Martinsburg to be paid for through a federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Currently, those in need of health care in this nine-county service area go out of state.

The next full board meeting is set for Feb. 7.