Penn State seeks improvement options for stadium
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — How much are history and tradition worth? It’s a question Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour will soon answer about the school’s football stadium.
University officials are seeking options to renovate or replace Beaver Stadium in the next 10 years. Penn State has hired an architecture firm to recommend improvements and funding plans for its 18 athletic facilities, including the world’s third-largest stadium.
”Nobody’s trying to either renovate Beaver or build a new stadium just to be doing it,” Barbour told the Associated Press. ”There’s a recognized need. I’ve not run into anybody that doesn’t recognize that need.”
The 106,572-seat complex has undergone seven expansions since moving from the other side of campus in 1960. But it remains antiquated, despite additions of luxury boxes and high-definition scoreboards.
Outdated plumbing requires complete winterization each November. Elevators are small and sluggish while concourses are narrow. The stadium lacks in concession options and still uses bleachers. The limitations prevent wider use of the venue.
Barbour said she’d like to see concerts and other sports like hockey in the facility.
”Seven days a year is not probably the best use of the full utilization of that investment,” Barbour said.
But the venerable stadium still has its charm, a reputation built on a game day atmosphere touted by alumni, players and even opposing fans and recruits. Players often share vivid memories of entering the stadium and running out of its Pennsylvania limestone-lined tunnel for the first time.
”That atmosphere is unreal,” sophomore linebacker Jason Cabinda said. ”There’s nothing that really compares to it in my opinion.”
That’s why Barbour is hoping Penn State will be able to work with what it currently has rather than build a new stadium.
”That would absolutely be my preference, no doubt about it, for a variety of reasons,” Barbour said. ”Not the least of which is history and tradition.”
Barbour is asking Kansas City, Missouri-based architecture firm Populous to survey athletes, coaches, alumni and fans and present its findings in July. Penn State will then aggressively implement suggested upgrades, said Phil Esten, deputy athletic director.
”They’re going to give us a gap analysis,” Esten said. ”This is where we are today, these are the tantamount needs and maybe wants and how we compare in the marketplace, so this is where we need to go in the future and this is road map for how to close that gap.”
Esten said the costs of renovations or a new stadium are hard to project. And the university will need ”creative” fundraising to pay for sweeping upgrades, he said.
Penn State’s athletic department reported a slight profit in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, up from a $6 million loss in 2013, according to a financial report submitted to the NCAA. It had $117.6 million in operating revenue in fiscal 2014.
”Not only do we want to know what facilities would be best for our student athletes, these need to be economically viable,” Esten said. ”Don’t show us a Cadillac if we can only afford a Chevy.”
Both Esten and Barbour have led major builds and renovations on other campuses. Barbour oversaw a $321 million renovation of California’s Memorial Stadium when she was athletic director there, while Esten was in charge of fundraising at Minnesota during the planning and construction of $303 million TCF Bank Stadium.