Cleaning up Beaver Stadium more than just a job

They call it the greatest show in college football for a reason: it’s awesome. A record crowd of more than 110,000 white-wearing fans singing, cheering and chanting in unison for the Penn State-Ohio State showdown Saturday night: fireworks blasting, band playing and stadium rocking for the prime-time kickoff.

But fast-forward a mere six-and-a-half hours from the end of Nittany Lion heartbreaker, and the scene is entirely different, as the stadium clean-up crew arrives to deal with the aftermath of that greatest show.

Did you know?

n Students involved in club sports, as well as other student organizations have the task of cleaning Beaver Stadium on Sunday mornings after home football games?

It’s a win-win for the University and the volunteers’ programs, whose organizations are paid for their services. But it’s also a daunting task for the small groups who sign up once a year to tackle the job.

It’s a fairly long-standing tradition, so long in fact that as a Penn State softball player many moons ago, I had the unique opportunity of cleaning Beaver Stadium three times (admittedly, before the most recent expansion, so today’s crews do more than we did back in the day.)

It’s something you never forget: the first view of the section-upon-section of seats, under which are thousands of discarded cups, half-eaten trays of nachos, ketchup and mustard packets, pom-poms, programs, and just about anything else you can possibly imagine.

I can still smell the pungent odor of day-old concession foods. There’s no point in even trying to wash your clothes or shoes — they become as disposable as the garbage itself. This job is not for the faint of heart, or stomach; and it has to be done rain or shine.

n There is a process. Sweep the trash from under the rows of seats into the aisles, and then bag it, often by glove-protected hand.

To see the piles of bagged garbage is both gratifying and horrifying; an estimated 40 tons of trash is produced during each home contest, and probably more during a highly-touted night game. The university is admirably working toward recycling and other trash-reducing options, but it is still a work in progress. Depending on the number of volunteers, the clean-up can take several hours up to the better part of the day.

In spite of the piles of waste and the unforgettable smell, there are also lots of laughs-had and memories-made along the way. The experience builds character as well as connections with teammates and friends.

n There is something really special about working in Beaver Stadium when the stands are quiet, save the sound of brooms and bags and conversation with teammates.

And there’s something cathartic about making that special place neat and clean for the next big crowd and big game.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org.

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