West Virginia University’s Board of Governors on Friday (Feb. 24) approved the purchase of 1.4 acres of land off Monongahela Boulevard, next to the women’s soccer practice facility, and heard an objective analysis of the operations and activities around the sale of alcoholic beverages at the football stadium.
Purchasing the property in Star City, including Shoney’s Restaurant, will cost approximately $1.2 million and provide space for future athletic competition venues, parking and other related needs, officials say.
The restaurant will remain in operation during its remaining three-year lease, while the owners seek a new location. The acquisition is still subject to the approval of the state attorney general and the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Government and Finance.
At its June 2011 meeting, following the adoption of a revised alcohol policy, the Board asked for a report around the initial year of beer sales and related operations.
Richard Woody, an industrial engineering major under the mentorship of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering professor Jack Byrd, undertook an independent analysis, which he presented to the Board Friday. Woody said he looked at a variety of factors, including vendor operations, restroom accessibility, fan feedback and police incident data.
His overall findings indicated:
- A suitable number of portable restrooms are in place.
- Non-alcoholic beverages out sold alcoholic beverages overall, although there were two games (LSU and Pitt) when beer out sold non-alcoholic beverages.
- Overall police incident reports were down, including calls, cases, arrests and charges.
- Concession sales increased in almost every category – from hot dogs to pretzels – although wait times varied from a few minutes to approximately 15 minutes depending on the timing (first quarter as opposed to halftime).
In addition, Woody’s study included satisfaction surveys which were distributed to a random sample of 700 fans each following the Connecticut and Louisville games, one a loss and one a win. There was an approximate 28 percent response rate, Woody said, with 77 and 78 percent of those who responded after the two respective games saying their experience was “enjoyable.” Seventeen and 14 percent, respectively, responded that it was enjoyable, but disruptive behavior was present.
If fans had to pick an area for improvement, they favored operations (restrooms, concessions) over security and crowd control, he added.
Athletic Director Oliver Luck said he appreciated the information and was encouraged by the findings.
He also reviewed the three major initiatives undertaken by the department to improve game-day operations: the no re-entry policy after halftime, adding designated smoking areas outside the concourse and stricter enforcement of ID checks as well as a limit on beer purchases.
“I want to congratulate our vendors, stadium security and city, state and University police for working with us to make game days safer and more enjoyable,” Luck said. “From concessionaire training to improved security checks, everyone took this initiative very seriously and our overall goal to improve the fan experience was realized.
“We will continue these measures as well as our diligence around the controlled sale of beer at the stadium.”
Luck noted that the department’s estimate of generating more than $500,000 in revenues was also realized.
In his report, WVU Chief of Police Bob Roberts described the season in terms of safety and behavior as “the best season ever.”
Other Board Matters
In other matters, Rick Kraich, vice president for investments at the WVU Foundation, reported Foundation investment assets totaled $983 million as of Dec. 31, 2011. That includes the endowment investment pool which saw a positive return of 2.7 percent for the calendar year 2011. The value of the endowment investment pool stood at $386 million as of December, Kraich added. The Foundation acts as an investment agent for WVU and WVU Hospitals.
Senior Associate Provost Russ Dean reported that the latest private donations made through the Research Trust Fund and approved for match by the Board, total $395,866, exhausting the current $35 million RTF matching fund set aside by the state and bringing the total to $70 million.
Those latest gifts include:
- WVU School of Medicine Research Endowment Fund – $370,860.
- J. Leland Taylor and Clara Virginia (Grosscurth) Taylor Memorial Scholarship – $25,000.
- Grace C. Clements Speech Pathology & Audiology Research Endowment – $6.
Under the initiative, WVU targets these private and matching funds for biomedical sciences, energy, biometrics and nanotechnology research. WVU has asked the Legislature to consider adding additional monies to the Fund.
Vice President for Legal Affairs Bill Hutchens recapped higher education bills making their way through the legislative session, including one that would create the Shale Research, Education, Policy and Economic Development Center at West Virginia University.
If the bill becomes law, he said, WVU would become the hub for the state and nation in research, technology and environmental science around the prudent development of natural gas. WVU would also be instrumental in creating education modules to help prepare workers for jobs in the industry, be involved in the development of the latest drilling technology, as well as research and solutions around water, geological, environmental and public health issues.
Board member Charles Vest said, “This is exactly what a leading land-grant university should be involved in,” but cautioned University officials to make sure due diligence is paid to fact-based, independent research and practices.
In his report to the Board, WVU President Jim Clements cited a recent statewide survey of registered voters, which reaffirmed WVU’s primary mission of serving the state. He asked Vice President for University Relations Chris Martin to recap the results.
The vast majority of those surveyed believe that WVU provides economic benefit to the state, Martin said. Citizens also rated the University extremely high for performance and for overall impact. People expressed the most appreciation for the WVU services that touch their lives directly, like WVU Healthcare and teacher education.
The majority of those surveyed also had a recent visit with a doctor or health care professional who graduated from WVU, she said, and they were extremely positive about that care. By very high percentages, they also expressed approval of other WVU services, including Ruby Memorial Hospital, 4-H, and WVU’s mine, fire and safety programs.
State citizens also felt strongly about the power of WVU athletics to enhance state pride, Martin said.
“That’s why the Orange Bowl was more than a victory for the football team — it was a victory for all West Virginians,” she added.
Clements also took a moment to thank WVU Police and all law enforcement officials for their bravery. Clements’ comments were made in honor of Sgt. Michael Todd May of the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department who died in the line of duty and was laid to rest Friday. Thousands lined the funeral procession through town and campus to pay their respects to the fallen officer.
WVU Tech’s campus executive officer and former BOG member, Carolyn Long, reported that the Revitalization Committee launched an online survey this week to share ideas and strategies for revitalizing Tech. The group’s first meeting will be held March 15 in the Tech Center Ballrooms.
In other matters, the Board approved:
- Mountaineer Station surface parking – $1.25 million
- A revised budget for construction of the Agricultural Sciences Greenhouse – from $5 million to $8.8 million
- Old Main renovation at WVU Tech – $3 million
- Health Sciences facility annex project – from $14.5 million (NIH grant) to $22 million (through issuance of $7 million in revenue bonds)
- Naming of former Potomac Valley Hospital, to be renovated as a residence hall, to Catamount Place.
Also at the meeting, the Board’s newest member, David Alvarez, was sworn in. Alvarez, a Bridgeport businessman, was appointed last month to fill Long’s unexpired term through June 30, 2014.
The Board’s next meeting will be held April 13 in Morgantown.
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