The Coliseum at 50: Looking Back On Five Decades of Mountaineer Basketball
In just less than eight months, the WVU Coliseum, home of the Mountaineers since 1970, will celebrate its 50th year of hosting West Virginia basketball. With such a historic milestone coming up, Mountaineer Maven will be spending that time reviewing some of the most iconic moments the hallowed building has ever seen.
Today, we look at some of the history behind the Coliseum's construction and the act that opened the building all the way back in September 1970.
Before the Coliseum, there was the WVU Field House, an equally iconic building located in downtown Morgantown that housed the likes of Jerry West, "Hot Rod" Hundley, Rod Thorn, Ron "Fritz" Williams, and so many more Mountaineer legends from the time it was built in 1928.
However, by the late 1960s, it became apparent that the university needed to upgrade its facilities if West Virginia's basketball team wanted to keep up with the elite programs of the era. As a result, plans began to emerge for what, for the time being, would be known as the "New Field House" project.
By 1967, funding was approved to move forward with the new project and construction on the towering concrete structure we know today as the WVU Coliseum began. With $10.4 million to be spent, West Virginia had the opportunity to put together one of the finest basketball facilities in the nation.
As many Mountaineer fans will be able to tell you, it did exactly that.
As the levels of concrete rose higher and higher on Monongahela Boulevard, West Virginia made a coaching change following the 1968-69 season, meaning Charleston native Sonny Moran would be the head coach to lead the Mountaineers on to the floor for the first game in the new facility.
After the Field House closed with a heartbreaking loss to Pitt at the end of the 1969-70 season, the way was opened up for the West Virginia men's basketball team to move into its new home the next season. However, it was not the Mountaineers that would inaugurate the Coliseum.
In 1970, Grand Funk Railroad was on the rise to being one of the best-remembered bands of the decade and made a stop in Morgantown on September 19th for the first official event ever held in the WVU Coliseum.
Off the backs of a pair of 1970 albums, Grand Funk and Closer to Home, the band played to a raucous crowd on September 19, 1970, as the Coliseum was filled with the noise of thousands of screaming West Virginians for the first time.
Less than three months later, the Mountaineers took the Coliseum floor for the first time on December 1 and took on the Colgate Raiders, a matchup we will look at in the next installment of "The Coliseum at 50."
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