Penn State AD prefers renovating, not replacing, Beaver Stadium


UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said she would prefer Beaver Stadium, the school's massive football stadium, be renovated instead of building a new football stadium as the school announced Thursday it is working with Kansas City-based architecture firm Populous to create a facilities master plan for the department.

"That's my strong personal preference, that's our preference as an athletic department and certainly as a university," she said Thursday in an interview with the Post-Gazette.

The school will rely on the recommendations of Populous, which in the next 10 months will present the school with long-term solutions for the athletic department's facilities.

Beaver Stadium will be a focal point of the study, Barbour said. Opened in 1960 with a seating capacity of 106,572, the stadium was last expanded in 2001 and welcomed 711,358 fans last year.

"It's my responsibility and it's our responsibility to do our due diligence and make sure we've identified, this is a 15, 20, 25, 30-year proposition, right?" Barbour said.

Penn State installed high definition video boards at the start of last football season and this offseason made improvements to the press box, which was previously last updated in 1978. The press box upgrade was initially estimated at $2 million.

Barbour said she hears recommendations from fans all the time about improving the gameday experience at Beaver Stadium, including suggestions to increase space for each bleacher seat and upgrade concession stands, elevators and bathrooms.

The school also will explore how to maximize the stadium so that it serves a greater purpose than playing host to seven football games a year. Since her arrival in July 2014, Barbour has fielded questions about having Beaver Stadium stage hockey games and concerts.

"I don't think I've been shy about saying we absolutely need Beaver Stadium to focus on being the very, very best gameday environment in all of college football," she said. "That stadium is a great asset, and how do we use it some number of days other than those seven? In order to do that, there are probably some physical infrastructure improvements that we could make to make."

Barbour said the history and tradition of the venue, which housed two national championship teams, will play a role in the analysis. So too will Penn State's financial situation, one where the athletic department reported a $4.8 million surplus for the 2014-15 school year with the help of a $10 million loan — the second installment of a $30 million loan from the university.

"We're not going to build a thing that we can't afford," she said, referencing all of Penn State's facilities. Penn State's coaches will provided feedback in the coming months about what changes they'd like to see made for their facility, and the department will use the master plan as a road map for how to proceed.

"We've got to have a plan," Barbour said. "When you get hit with, 'We need a natatorium, we need outdoor tennis, the soccer stadium needs scoreboards, concessions, team rooms, a press box, your football stadium needs concessions, bathrooms, elevators, seating' ... then it's like 'OK, let's think about how to get the biggest bang for our resources.' "