STATE COLLEGE, PA.—Penn State plans to overhaul 23 athletic facilities, including its football stadium, though renovations to the program’s iconic home won’t begin for at least five years.
Once completed, the 106,572-seat, nearly six-decade-old Beaver Stadium could include a brick facade and see its capacity decrease to 100,000 to improve fan comfort and increase its ability to host events in such sports as professional hockey and soccer.
"This is an aspirational plan," Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said recently in a public meeting where concept art of the stadium and other facilities was revealed. "We'll ultimately build what we can afford."
Barbour said the athletic department would need to raise at least $120 million to fund an initial wave of five projects before work on the stadium can begin. Penn State does not have a start date for the stadium renovations and will continue to work with Kansas City, Missouri-based architecture firm Populous to implement the construction in phases.
The athletic department hopes to complete work on all 23 facilities within 20 years.
The first five projects include building a new hub for athletes, an indoor practice facility to be used by the school's baseball, softball, golf, lacrosse and soccer programs. Penn State also plans to build a new 10-lane natatorium, an indoor tennis facility and to renovate its soccer stadium.
"The five projects that we've identified are not small projects," Deputy Athletic Director Phil Esten said. "So it's going to take an enormous effort on our behalf to pay attention to those five projects, and that will be our focus for the next five years."
Barbour could not say whether construction on the football stadium would begin for sure by 2022. A completion date hasn't been targeted, either. Work on any of the five initial projects will not begin until at least 2018.
"You're not going to be able to pin it down," Barbour said. "Because we feel we need that runway to design, sequence and fund. I don't think until we actually get into design, sequence and funding mechanisms that we can set a goal."
The football stadium has undergone seven expansions since moving from the other side of campus in 1960. But it remains relatively antiquated, despite additions of luxury boxes, high-definition scoreboards, new elevators and a refurbished press box.
If the final product looks like the concept art presented at the meeting, nearly 3/4ths of Beaver Stadium's exposed structural foundation will be hidden by bricks and glass.
Originally expected to be released last summer, Penn State's plans for its facilities were delayed as the athletic department and Populous entertained multiple approaches and considered feedback and survey responses from Penn State fans and athletic department donors.
"There are lots of things in this master plan that have been tweaked," Barbour said. "Maybe Populous came to us with and we were like, 'That doesn't quite fit the needs as we see them.'"
Those needs include maximizing the stadium's usage potential. Currently, the stadium is only used by the Nittany Lion football team, though it will host its first concert later this summer.
Both the athletic department and NHL have expressed interest in holding a hockey game at the stadium and Barbour confirmed Penn State has spoken with FIFA representatives about hosting professional soccer in the venue. But antiquated infrastructure has prevented its wider use.
Outdated plumbing requires complete winterization each November, and there are other obstacles like narrow concourses, lack of chairback seating and limited concession options.
Penn State plans to pay on a project-by-project basis and to fund each one through multiple means with philanthropy, operational revenue, corporate partnerships and the possibility of other public and private partnerships, Barbour said.