Stadium upgrades won’t come quickly

Other changes planned over next five years

Courtesy Penn State University Penn State released this illustration of how Beaver Stadium will look after the upgrades are completed.

UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State has a grand vision to renovate and beautify Beaver Stadium during an ambitious 20-year facilities master plan, but as of now, there is still no timetable in place for when the project will be started or completed.

It will be at least six years before major renovation work on Beaver Stadium begins, and quite possibly longer, then it would take an additional three to four years to finish.

Under the current plan, the stadium’s seating capacity would decrease to roughly 103,000, down from the current 106,572, where it ranks as the third-largest stadium in the world.

Those details and others about the overall facilities plan were revealed for the first time Monday as Penn State officials showed artist renderings and answered questions about proposed upgrades and additions to the campus’ athletics district. Chief among the highlights, the school also plans to build a new 450,000 square foot athletics hub to be called the Center of Excellence.

“This facilities master plan will have a huge impact over a significant period of time,” PSU athletic director Sandy Barbour said.

“It’s a 20-year plan, it’s a road map,” the AD added. “And like any road map, there will be detours and there will be rerouting along the way.”

The facilities plan will be broken down into five-year phases, and will cost a lot of money. Just how much isn’t known, but PSU hopes to raise a minimum of $120 million over the next five years to do work on the various projects in phase one (see Page B4 for the breakdown).

The Beaver Stadium renovation is not scheduled to begin during the first phase. No major upgrade is planned to the Bryce Jordan Center for basketball during that time, either.

So, exactly when will construction start on Beaver Stadium? At this point, PSU officials do not know.

Barbour said the initial five-year phase, to begin in fiscal year 2018-19, will be used on “design, sequence and fundraising.”

“This is an aspirational plan,” Barbour said. “We’ll ultimately build what we can afford.”

Whenever the work on Beaver Stadium does begin, it will take part in phases spread out over several years, much the same as Texas A&M did with its stadium, Kyle Field.

Following one season, work will be done on one side of the stadium from December until August. Then, after that season, work on another section will be done. Deputy AD Phil Esten said the project should take three to four seasons to complete.

Under the best-case scenario, if PSU raises the money it needs over the initial five-year phase, work could then begin on the stadium in December of 2023. It would not be completed until at least the 2026 season, and possibly 2027.

If it takes longer to raise the money, it could push the project completion back to 2030 or later.

Beaver Stadium will look very different once the project is completed, based on artist renderings. The outside will feature a new light brown brick “skin” that will match the theme of the other athletics facilities. There will be three seating decks and more chairbacks in the main seating area, plus the suites on one side will be taken down and moved to a lower level.

The student section, arguably the best in the nation, will not be affected, Barbour said.

The renovation also will improve fan amenities, such as new concessions locations and food options, wider concourses, additional premium seating and new restrooms, according to the university.

While Beaver Stadium will get a major overhaul — specifics of which were discussed Monday — nothing specific was mentioned about how the university plans to better the fan experience for men’s basketball.

The Bryce Jordan Center has long been criticized for lacking in atmosphere, and Esten said the school does hope to make upgrades that will help in that regard. But aside from agreeing that moving some seats closer to the court could help, neither Esten nor Barbour offered up anything specific about potential changes.

Interestingly enough, while there were detailed artist renderings showing changes to Beaver Stadium and numerous other facilities, there was nothing of the sort regarding the BJC. Nor was there any time frame mentioned about when upgrades could be made to the arena, which serves a valuable purpose as a multi-purpose facility, even if it is lacking for basketball.

PSU’s initial five-year upgrade plan

The university will focus on the following upgrades/additions over the initial five-year period:

CENTER OF EXCELLENCE: The Center of Excellence will be the new hub for Penn State’s 800 student-athletes, staff and coaches and will be constructed where the East Area Locker Room currently is located. The 450,000-square foot facility will centralize services and other resources for student-athletes, including performance enhancement, sports performance, and sports science facilities as well as a nutrition center. The Center of Excellence will be centrally located for student-athletes, across the street from the Morgan Academic Center. The facility will also house locker rooms and coaches’ offices for the field hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse, soccer and tennis programs. A 500-space parking facility is included under the center.

INDOOR PRACTICE FACILITY: A new 108,000-square foot indoor practice facility, similar to Holuba Hall, will be attached to the Center of Excellence, providing practice space for the baseball, softball, men’s and women’s golf, lacrosse and soccer programs, as well as indoor workout space for all 31 sports. The venue could also host selected Penn State sports camps and other events.

NATATORIUM: The new 130,000-square foot facility will include a 10-lane, 50-meter competition pool, a separate lap pool with campus recreation programming capability and a diving well that will permit diving competition from 1, 3, 5, 7.5 and 10-meter boards and platforms. The complex will have facilities for the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, seating for approximately 2,500 spectators and campus community locker rooms. The Natatorium will provide opportunities for Penn State to host significantly more swimming and diving events than at McCoy Natatorium, which opened in 1967, and will provide campus recreation with programming opportunities for students and others in our community far beyond current capabilities. The new Natatorium will be located either on its current location on the corner of Bigler and Curtain roads, or will be constructed just north of the Penn State’s outdoor track, near Porter Road, with a decision expected in the coming months.

INDOOR TENNIS FACILITY: This new 100,000-square foot complex will feature 10 courts, facilities for the men’s and women’s tennis teams, campus recreation space, seating for approximately 500 spectators and a pro shop. The facility will be located just west of the Field Hockey Complex enabling Penn State to host a much wider variety of indoor tennis events than we able to at the current four-court facility.

JEFFREY FIELD: The home of the Nittany Lion men’s and women’s soccer programs. Upgrades include new game day home and visiting team locker facilities, chairback seats for fans with covered seating on the west side of the facility, concessions and restrooms, a videoboard, media facilities and new lighting around the complex. Jeffrey Field’s seating capacity will be approximately 4,000 upon completion of the upgrades.

Source: Penn State University

Planned improvements

Projects planned at Penn State beyond the initial five years of the facilities plan:

Numerous new and renovated facilities in master plan:In addition to the four new projects previously outlined, the master plan calls for these additional new facilities during the 20-year vision (listed alphabetically):

All-Sports Museum (located at intersection of University Drive and Curtin Road)

Basketball practice facility

Cross Country team house

Golf Clubhouse

Golf indoor practice facility

Olympic sport training facility

Outdoor track and facility

Parking structure west of Beaver Stadium

In addition to Jeffrey Field, the study also includes renovation or upgrades to these facilities over the next 20 years (listed alphabetically):

Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park

Beaver Stadium

Bryce Jordan Center

Penn State Field Hockey Complex

Lasch Football Building

Multi-Sport Complex

Penn State Lacrosse Field

Sarni Tennis Center

Source: Penn State University