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WVU football stadium adds family-friendly section

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- To foster a more family-friendly game day experience, West Virginia University athletic officials are setting aside one section at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Dubbed the "Family FunZone," the seating section will be alcohol-free and cater to fans who would like to bring their children to home football games.

Matt Wells, assistant athletic director for marketing and sales, said the new section was a response to fan feedback.

Wells said officials have been focusing on ways to improve the fan experience on game days. Since officials introduced stadium beer sales in 2011, Wells said, some fans have asked for an alcohol-free seating section.

"Some of the feedback we heard as a department was to provide some type of area where it's alcohol-free, more family-friendly and encourages fans to watch their language," Wells said.

WVU fans have gained a reputation for bad behavior over the years.

In 2011, Athletic Director Oliver Luck had to ask fans to stop wearing T-shirts that said "WEST F*****VIRGINIA" to games.

After last year's WVU-Texas football game, more than 40 fires were set in Morgantown. Dozens of police officers in riot gear had to use pepper spray and tear gas to disperse a crowd of about 1,000 in the Sunnyside section of town.

The university has countered with tactics designed to cut down on rowdiness.

Last year, the school introduced Goodwill City Ambassadors to greet opposing teams, and law enforcement officials increased patrol efforts. The 2011 introduction of beer sales itself was part of a broader strategy to keep people in the stadium and away from excessive drinking at tailgate parties.

The Family FunZone is the next step.  

"Creating a family friendly environment at the stadium has always been a goal of ours," Luck said in a statement. "As part of the evaluation process of our game day atmosphere, we believe it is important to offer a seating area that is alcohol free and more conducive to fans attending the game with children."

Wells said athletic department officials worked with stadium staff and law enforcement to create the area.

"We really felt like this year was the right time to implement something like this," he said.

The zone is in Section 133 at the southwest corner of the field above the entrance to the football team locker room.

Wells said officials picked that section because it used to be for fans of visiting teams.

Visiting teams used to be allotted 5,000 seats, and they could sell those tickets to their own fans.

However, Wells said Big 12 Conference teams are limited to 3,850 tickets. That freed up most of Section 133's nearly 1,000 seats this season.

Wells said some season ticket holders do have seats in Section 133 and they will be given the option to move to other sections.

Section 133 was in the so-called Green Zone, which was set aside for season ticket holders whose ticket purchases were not accompanied by donations to the Mountaineer Athletic Club.

Wells said priority season ticket renewal packets are being mailed to Mountaineer Athletic Club members this week. He said they would have first pick to sit in the Family FunZone.

After the priority season ticket deadline of May 15, Wells said the athletic department would allow the general public to purchase season tickets in the section.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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