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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The onset of the massive makeover that administrators insist Beaver Stadium requires likely will be delayed at least five years while Penn State focuses on other sports building projects.

At Monday's unveiling of the long-delayed athletics facilities master plan, athletic director Sandy Barbour said the complexity of updating the 57-year-old stadium necessitated the deferral.

"We need that kind of runway to design, sequence, and fund it," Barbour said after the public meeting in Hintz Alumni Center. "Until then, we can't set [a deadline for completion]."

While that preliminary planning is underway, Barbour said, the athletic department will be raising money for and building five other athletic facilities prioritized in the master plan.

That 20-year plan was originally scheduled to have been released in July. "There were fits and starts," Barbour said. "But it was about getting it right."

It was developed over 17 months by Populous, a Kansas City sports-design firm. The study recommended 11 new structures and eight major renovations, most involving Olympic sports.

The prioritized projects include new swimming and tennis buildings and a Center for Excellence, a 450,000-square-foot facility to house offices and lockers for several minor sports and the athletic department as well as serve as a hub for various student-athlete services.

"This is all very aspirational in nature," Barbour cautioned. "It's a road map. And as with a road map, there will be detours and rerouting along the way."

The plan's priorities surprised many who had hoped and suspected that Beaver Stadium, the revenue generator that helps support Penn State's 30 other sports and more than 800 athletes, would be first in line.

"I can't believe it," said one elderly man in a Penn State football jersey as he exited the meeting. "There wasn't much about football in there at all."

If the plan is enacted as designed and the money raised, the soonest the stadium work could begin would be 2023.

When it gets its much-needed renovation, Beaver Stadium's capacity will be reduced from 107,000 to 103,000, associate AD Phil Esten said. The footprint it occupies on the western edge of the sprawling campus will grow by 500,000 square feet.

According to the master plan, a brick and limestone shell will surround the landmark facility, enhancing the unsightly exterior appearance that decades of hasty enlargements created.

Corridors will be broadened and aisles widened. Concessions and restrooms will be added and improved and a new press box will be built.

Premium seating will be key component of a rebuilt stadium. Existing luxury boxes will be removed and replaced with 96 suites, 127 loge boxes and 3,800 club seats. Thousands more chair-back seats will replace bleachers.

Once the reconstruction begins, Esten said, it probably will take at least four years, with a different quadrant being updated between football seasons.

That's the way Texas A&M redid its Kyle Field, a project that lasted four years and cost $450 million.

"They'd do the east side, then play a football season," Esten said, "They'd do the north side, then play a football season."

Penn State administrators would not estimate a timetable or a cost for the stadium work but said the money would come from a combination of philanthropy, athletic revenue, and corporate sponsorships.

The unveiling came on a day when the big news on campus was the guilty pleas from two former administrators in connection with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, a development that likely won't make fund-raising any easier.

"As I said, this is all aspirational," Barbour noted. "These projects will be done as they are funded."

To help pay for the new tennis and swimming facilities, both of which could be used by all students, student fees could be assessed.

The initial phase of facilities work could begin as soon as 2018. Efforts are already underway to raise $120 million for that construction.

Among the events Penn State hopes to book in a modernized Beaver Stadium are concerts, NHL games, and soccer matches.

"We've already been in talks with officials from international soccer," Barbour said.

ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com

@philafitz

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March 14, 2017
 
 
 

 

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