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MORGANTOWN — West Virginia has selected a construction company and will soon announce the particulars involved with installing a new video board on the north end of Milan Puskar Stadium, WVU Athletic Director Shane Lyons said.
The university posted a request for proposal in December, and Lyons said WVU and the selected company are "working out some of the language in the contract, but hopefully in the coming days or even weeks it can be officially announced.
WVU's stadium has a video board in the south end, and Lyons said the new one will be "significantly bigger and functional for the 2017 season. The RFP listed Aug. 15 as the completion date, which is more than three weeks before WVU's first home game. Construction is already underway on the west side of the stadium to expand the concourse area and enhance the restroom and concession areas to mirror work done on the east side last year.
"These are the things we've got to keep on the radar because we are fighting the home experience, Lyons said. "We want to be able to have people come out and enjoy themselves. The big thing last year was not fighting crowds in the restroom and not fighting the crowds at the concession stands, and even though you're going to have some kind of inconveniences and there's never going to be a perfect game-watching experience, you can't replicate at home the sound and feel and all that of the stadium.
"We continue to look at what we can do to enhance that and have the great viewing aspect and the replays. Everyone's going to the bigger boards, and we'll be close to one of the top 25 biggest boards in the country.
Lyons said WVU understood spectators far from the south end zone didn't have an ideal view of the video board, and that was particularly important for a second look at highlights or important plays under review. The new LED display in the north end zone will address that.
The RFP allowed for separate possibilities. One was for a pair of boards measuring 30 feet high and 53 feet long. Each would be positioned in a corner. The other option WVU ultimately accepted was a lone, centrally located board measuring 38 feet high and 98 feet long.
If the new board is 38-by-98, the 3,724 square foot display would be larger than five others in the Big 12. WVU's existing board is 23.5-by-85.
"We used to talk about having a 40-inch TV, and we thought that was big, Lyons said. "I went to Sam's Club the other night, and now they've got 90-inch screens. They're getting bigger and bigger for homes, and I think the same thing is happening for athletic venues. You want to have the best possible experience, and that includes these video boards so you can see the plays and the replays.
"Some people are watching that board more than they're watching the field. That's what's happening. The screens are getting bigger, and they're getting a better picture, which is what we're looking for.
Virginia Tech unveiled a 4,352-square foot board in 2013, and that reportedly cost around $3 million. WVU's multimedia rights contract with IMG College calls for financial commitments to capital projects and makes $3.5 million available up to 2019. Lyons said IMG will cover a "significant share of the cost, as in more than half.
WVU is optimistic the new board stimulates an increase in single-game ticket sale interest, and Lyons said additional income will be realized through advertising opportunities on the new board. Matt Wells, the senior associate athletic director for external affairs, said the "combination of new digital ad positions and static ad panels could generate ad revenue "in the low to mid six figures annually.
When the project is finished, Lyons will shift to the next.
"I think what's going to happen is we'll put this board up and then we're going to have to go back to the south end zone and look at that and upgrade that board, he said. "The next part of my big picture for that is the sound system. Right now, we have sound just coming from over the north end zone, so I think the next thing is a true surround sound within the stadium where we have more balance.
"Sometimes we've got to adjust it, but if you're in the north end and we turn it up so the fans in the south end get excited, now it's too loud there. The next thing is making sure the other video board is upgraded and then ultimately to have a sound system in there.
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