Is it time for Penn State to build a new football stadium? Fan responses to a new survey released this week may well influence such a decision.
Some Penn State football fans received an email on Monday linking them to a detailed questionnaire seeking feedback on the current state of Beaver Stadium and possible plans for the future. Fans were asked to declare their interest in a handful of new developments, including potential in-stadium alcohol sales or fanciful seats. One notable question hopes to gauge fan interest in building a whole New stadium, all on the condition that a brand new venue would provide a better fan experience than a renovated Beaver Stadium if the costs were close.
While announcing investigation, Penn State declined to take a position on the proposed renovations, noting instead that “all options” are being considered and that fan feedback would result in ratings.
Extensive renovations to Beaver Stadium (or the prospect of a new stadium entirely) have been floated for years, dating back even to the early days of Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour’s tenure in 2015.
“Nobody is trying to renovate Beaver or build a new stadium just to do it,” Barbour said. told the Associated Press in 2015. “There is a recognized need. I have not met anyone who does not recognize this need.
Two years later in 2017, Penn State published its facilities master plan — an eclectic 20-year project that has set ambitious goals for the renovation of its sports facilities. On paper, the campaign was aimed at 23 athletic venues on campus that would support Penn State’s 31 programs, including a new multi-sport practice facility.
Facilities Master Plan projects have largely stalled since 2017, possibly in part due to COVID-19 impact on Penn State’s finances and the world in general. Panzer Stadium, Penn State’s new home of lacrosse that was funded independently of the plan, was completed in 2018. The university is currently finishing a $48.3 million renovation project for its Lasch football buildingwhich was included in the master plan.
The most controversial element of the facilities master plan was a widespread renovation of Beaver Stadium. Plans suggested increasing recliner seating, installing new concession stands and dining options, expanding concourses, and more, which would require Penn State to slightly reduce Beaver Stadium’s capacity. Additionally, the Facilities Master Plan called for the construction of a new parking structure west of Beaver Stadium.
Renovations to Beaver Stadium, plotted in 2017 and shown in the renderings above, were set to begin after Penn State completed five “priority” projects in the first five years: the Center of Excellence student-athlete center , a new indoor training facility, a new 10-lane, 50-meter natatorium, a new tennis facility and renovations to Jeffrey Field. None of these projects, at least under the conditions presented by the Equipment Master Plan, has been carried out. The five-year schedule was understandably altered to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic, but nearly five years after its unveiling, the facilities master plan has yet to really come to fruition.
So while Penn State is apparently working with an outdated schedule, renovations to Beaver Stadium seem up in the air. Penn State Athletics plans to use fan feedback to chart the way forward, but it seems clear that the proposed 2017 renovations are no longer set in stone. If the fan feedback is overwhelming enough, we might be more concerned about a whole New football stadium in a few years.
The final piece of this puzzle, of course, would cover finances. Penn State presented this scenario for a new stadium on the condition that the cost of a brand new venue would be “similar” to the funds needed to complete the renovations. So how much could the future of Beaver Stadium cost? For the moment, it is not clear.
The most recent redesign of Beaver Stadium at the turn of the 21st century netted the north $90 million. Some more recent projects, including renovations to Texas A&M’s Kyle Field or Notre Dame’s Notre Dame Stadium, have cost their schools $450 million and $400 million, respectively. Meanwhile, recent renovations to Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium cost just $40 million. Either way, until Penn State determines which direction it wants to take Beaver Stadium, the exact cost of the site’s future will likely remain unclear.
Despite complicated and potentially outdated master plans, the prospect of a new Penn State football stadium is fascinating. The construction would require a huge amount of money, and finding a location would also be difficult. On that note, if a new stadium literally took the place of Beaver Stadium, where would the Nittany Lions play? Would they split the time between Heinz Field and Lincoln Financial Field to appease their experts in Pennsylvania? Maybe return to Old Main Lawn to reminisce about the team’s roots? Who knows.
Most fans might agree that Beaver Stadium is no longer a top contender when it comes to stadium innovation or even the overall fan experience. Still, would the Nittany Lions faithful even want to remove Beaver Stadium in the first place? Check your emails for participate in the survey and help influence the future of Penn State football.