WEST LIBERTY - One of the first things prospective student-athletes look at when considering which university to attend is the facilities, according to West Liberty University Coach Roger Waialae.
Thanks to a $5 million stadium project spearheaded by Gary and Flip West, West Liberty can offer a state-of-the-art venue specially designed to enhance the experience of both athletes and spectators. In honor of the West family's efforts, the new stadium was named in their honor at a special ceremony Monday morning.
Gary West, a 1958 graduate of the university, said he heard several years ago that the Hilltop's stadium complex was unsatisfactory and immediately resolved to do something about it. A retired entrepreneur, West said he owes much of his success to his education at West Liberty and he was happy to help enhance the school for future students.
AP Photo/West Liberty University Vice President of Institutional Advancement Jason Koegler, left, M&G Engineering’s Eric Matyskiela, Athletic Director Jim Watson, football coach Roger Waialae, Flip West, Gary West, Provost Brian Crawford and M&G’s Larry Skrzypck attend a ceremony Monday to name a new stadium after the West family in honor of their contributions to the institution.
"What I learned, I put it to work and it paid off in a big way," West said. "We had a great year in investments for the last 3-4 years so we had some excess money that we thought could help the university. We're very happy to do our part to help out."
The three-phase stadium project began in 2008 with the installation of a new MondoTurf field, followed by a new Musco athletic lighting system for night games. The final step is a new complex for the stadium itself, which consists of new fan seating, an expanded press box with full broadcast capabilities, a VIP hospitality box and ADA compliant concession stands and restrooms.
According to West, the project was masterminded by himself, WLU Vice President of Institutional Advancement Jason Koegler and Waialae. Koegler said it was 100 percent privately-funded by West and other local donors, including Charlie Annett, H.R. "Bucky" Kopf and others.
WLU Provost Brian Crawford said the stadium's improvements reflect on the school at large.
"Overall it improves the campus, the student experience and the alumni experience," Crawford said. "It really just makes things better for everyone."
"Nothing says 'college life' like a Thursday night football game with all family and friends," Koegler agreed. He said the support of alumni like West remains one of the university's strongest pillars.
"In the midst of continuing state cuts to higher education, we are especially grateful for the ongoing support from Gary and all our alumni and friends," Koegler said. "Gary's continued generosity to our university makes it appropriate to name the new stadium after the West family. His leadership and remarkable philanthropy is visionary."