Work will begin this month on year-long renovations to the West Virginia University Mountainlair plaza now that a contractor is on board, project officials say.

Massaro Co. of Pittsburgh submitted the low bid for the contract on the project, said Kim Hartsell, a facilities planner with WVU Planning, Design and Construction.

The contractor will start taking over the site this week and hopefully commence work the week of Aug. 16,Hartsell said.

Plans call for completing the work in time for next years FallFest, she added.

This years back-to-school bash will be Aug. 23 on the green between the Business and Economics and Life Sciences buildings.

The renovated plaza will sport a fresh artificial playing turf, basketball court, terraced walkways, increased lighting, and tables and seating situated among shade trees and shrubbery.

We are separating the plaza into two sections,Hartsell said.We are keeping recreational activity in one area and creating a more relaxed setting in the other. We didnt want to design the plaza for one type of student.

In fact, WVU sought student input before directing architects to do any preliminary drawings, she said. An online survey found that students wanted the turf area maintained, a better basketball playing surface and comfortable seating.

The plaza renovations are part of a $7 million project that also includes repairs to the 450-space parking garage beneath.

The garage improvementswhich started in Julyinclude concrete repairs, new lighting, a new sprinkler system and renovations to the ventilation system. Concrete Preservation Systems of Pittsburgh is the contractor on that project.

Since work on the garage started, WVU employees with permits to park there have been parking in the Morgantown parking garage on Spruce Street and riding a University bus to the Mountainlair.

Those who use the 300 short-term spaces have the option of parking at the Coliseum for free and riding the Personal Rapid Transit or parking at the Morgantown garage off Don Knotts Boulevard for 50 cents an hour and riding a MountainLine bus to the Mountainlair for free. For MountainLine bus schedules and routes, visitwww.busride.orgor call 304-291-RIDE. Call 304-284-7435 for information on the city parking garage.

The Mountainlair garage is tentatively scheduled to reopen in November.

Design Alliance Architects of Pittsburgh is the lead architect on the two projects, and LaQuatra Bonci Associates, also of Pittsburgh, is the landscape architect.