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Penn State AD addresses 'renovate or rebuild' panic for Beaver Stadium


UNIVERSITY PARK — Essentially, Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour stood in front of a sampling of the State College public and assured them not to panic.

Barbour and other members of the athletic department and faculty held the third and final town hall meeting in discussion of the appraisal of Penn State's athletic facilities on Wednesday night in Rec Hall.

Much of the line of questioning, among a few about the "loud music" played during football games and the concern about facilities outside those for football, concerned the "renovate or rebuild" argument surrounding Beaver Stadium — or the potential to "scale back" the stadium's seating that renovating might require.

Penn State has hired Populous, an outside firm, to appraise the options the university has in regard to improving its 19 athletic facilities.

"That's why we're doing a facilities master plan," she said. "To address the needs What are the needs in each and every one of those 19 facilities, and how do we best address the needs?"

Causing 'panic': A town hall attendee even mentioned that the "renovate or rebuild" argument had caused "panic" in her personal network.

Barbour has said often, since discussion began, that her personal preference would be to renovate Beaver Stadium, which, she added, has received "the lion's share" of the attention from the community — she also added that the logical options for each and every one of Penn State's athletic facilities could be reduced to either "renovate" or "rebuild."

"Fortunately, we've got time (to address the panic)," said Barbour. "Certainly I know that that's a question out there, which is why I started openly talking about what my preference is, and why we might look at and analyze both.

"Nothing is going to happen tomorrow, so hopefully when nothing happens tomorrow, that panic subsides a little bit, and then the opportunity for what we're doing, what we're analyzing, takes hold."

As for potentially scaling back the seats in Beaver Stadium, Barbour said it's about the "atmosphere" that comes with being at a Penn State game.

"Beaver Stadium is a very, very important part of who we are. And as I said before, the magic in Beaver Stadium is with it being full, and loud with passionate and connected Penn State fans."

Paterno plans: Though it wasn't posed Wednesday night, Barbour also said she had been asked "all the time" about whether Penn State planned to honor or include former football coach Joe Paterno in future plans.

"It's a part of who we are, and the question does come up," she said. "But I think we've also, as a university, and with Dr. (Eric) Barron's leadership, have been very consistent about (the idea that) there will be a time and a place."

To open the forum, Barbour went through the checklist of what items Populous will be appraising when suggesting action be taken regarding facilities, including safety, revenue generation, regulatory issues and competitive and recruiting effects. She said internal discussions with Penn State coaches, who voiced what they felt their facility needs were, had already taken place.

Barbour also said the framework of the plan would be "cleaned up" by the first of the year — still, an official decision regarding the facilities would come later that year.

"And then obviously, the facilities master plan, it's going to be a race, but we're talking about July of 2016."

Potential costs: The job of Populous, of course, would be to address the needs of all of the facilities, and then address potential costs.

"How do those needs get addressed, and then what would that cost? We're not building a thing we can't afford," said Barbour. "So a financial plan to address the cost is absolutely a huge part of this master plan."

As for the cost of employing Populous itself, Barbour was vague, though she said it's a sizable amount.

"We're doing it in phases, so we'll see in the end what it ends up being," she said. "But I can tell you this, every penny of it will be saved in terms of ultimately having a plan, that we don't then waste money doing things that we have to then turn around and tear down part of this, or rebuild part of this, or this is more expensive because we're doing it in the wrong sequence."

All final decisions based on the findings of Populous will be decided upon by Barbour, the board of trustees and Barron as well as university leaders on a project-by-project basis.