WVU returns planned Pride Marching Band practice facility to campus: Med Fields at Health Sciences Campus.

Mar. 25—MORGANTOWN — WVU has decided once again to locate the planned Pride Practice Field and Facility being developed for the Mountaineer Marching Band to an on-campus site: Med Fields on the Health Sciences Campus. WVU announced the new plan on Monday.

After stating for a number of years that the facility would be built at the former site of Hawley Field, WVU announced a change of plans last October: a partnership with Mylan Park to locate the facility at the park. The first phase, WVU said in October, would include a football field-sized turf filed and sound system and was expected to be ready for the 2024 band camp.

The change of site aroused opposition, according to social media posts, with some calling the change a "bait-and-switch."

WVU said Monday that it renewed efforts to identify a suitable on-campus site after the October announcement to shift the project to Mylan Park "generated concern among some stakeholders."

Keith Jackson, Dean of the College of Creative Arts, said Monday that the new location, next to the Health Sciences Center PRT Station, was not previously available due to potential development plans.

But the Med Fields site addresses transportation concerns related to an off-campus site, he said, as well as drainage issues at the former Hawley Field site and potential pedestrian safety issues associated with crossing Monongahela Boulevard to reach it.

"The site also already features lighting, and the band will have priority access to the Med Fields and ample parking in the adjacent parking lots, " he said.

Jackson said Monday that he understands the frustration as the efforts to create a Pride Practice Field and Facility, which began nearly five years ago, have taken longer than expected.

"The needs for all involved have evolved during that time, but our shared vision for the project and the commitment to our students and completing this project remain unchanged, " Jackson said.

The University Planning Committee has approved use of the site and the architect already involved in the project has been reengaged to design a field with the same amenities originally included in the first and future phases of the project: the turf field, storage facility and shelter.

WVU said the process to complete a new design and gather cost estimates could be finalized in the next six months. A November 2019 article in The Dominion Post put the estimated cost for the whole project on the lower end of a $3.5 million to $18 million range, A June 2023 release, when the Hawley Field site was still in view, estimated the second phase at $4 million.

After the new design and cost estimates are complete, WVU said, a Request for Procurement for construction will be issued and site work will take several more months. The goal is for the turf field to be ready for the band to begin using the site by August 2025.

Until then, the band will continue to use its current practice area.

"Campus partners such as Athletics, Facilities, the Office of the Provost and the Division of Student Life have provided invaluable assistance throughout this process, " Jackson said. "I am also thankful to Mylan Park for its continued support and for being a tremendous community partner, and I am extremely grateful for the generous donations from supporters made through the WVU Foundation or WVU Alumni Band."

Past and future donations will be used as originally intended—to fund the turf field which will still be known as Don Wilcox Field, as well as other needs that will enable the band to practice at its new on-campus home, WVU said. No gifts held at The Foundation or funds from WVU were transferred to Mylan Park in support of this project.

Gifts to the Pride Practice Facility are made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the university.