WEST LIBERTY - Entrepreneur and West Liberty University graduate Gary West donated the Roadworthy Tavern - which he purchased at auction in April - to his alma mater, making the $1.65 million listed value of the property the largest donation the university has ever received.
West Liberty University President Robin Capehart, speaking at a press conference Wednesday at the Roadworthy to announce the donation, said West donated the building Dec. 21 and it has since been renamed the Gary E. West Events Center.
"On behalf of our faculty, staff, students, alumni, benefactors and friends, it is with a great sense of excitement and appreciation that we accept Gary's act of kindness and dedication to his alma mater," Capehart said.
The building offers a solution to scheduling conflicts, parking availability and issues with food service frequently encountered last year when the university hosted more than 100 receptions, dinners and similar events, Capehart said.
"Therefore, we have decided that the best and highest use of the property shall be to make the facility available for campus activities and, in light of the outstanding kitchen facilities that are present, the building shall be particularly conducive to those activities requiring the serving of food," he added.
University maintenance workers were inside the building Wednesday to assess its condition, which they said was outstanding. University administrators are planning a dedication ceremony, but they have not yet set a date for that event.
Capehart extinguished any speculation about the university returning the building to a restaurant full-time, saying school administrators "quickly realized that as an institution of higher education, we are not equipped to undertake such a venture."
The university will, however, make the building available for public use "at a modest cost, subject ... to its availability," Capehart added.
West, owner of West Rentals Inc. headquartered in Wheeling, will retain ownership of the property surrounding the Roadworthy, including the six rental cabins. West did not attend the press conference and could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Capehart described the Wheeling native and 1958 West Liberty graduate as "a man already known for his loyalty and his generosity to this community."
The building's construction was financed with a portion of the $9 million that former owner Bernie Metz embezzled from the now defunct Center Valley Federal Credit Union in Wheeling while employed as the bank's chief financial officer and manager. She is currently serving a nine-year prison term for embezzlement and money laundering.
The U.S. Marshals Service seized the property from Metz following her arrest in 2009, and West purchased it at auction in April for $1.2 million.