In the cult of the blue and white, it is the high temple.
Beaver Stadium, home of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team, can pack more than 107,000 football fans into a cauldron of emotion. They beseech the gridiron gods. They pray for victory. They exult and despair, their faith tested often.
For a few frenzied hours, they turn the nation’s second- largest football stadium into the state’s third-largest city — and maybe its biggest party.
Before and after games — and even during — a sea of tailgate picnics extends in all directions. Some fans take this Penn State ritual to elaborate extremes, with gourmet meals, real tablecloths, fancy china and wine from corked bottles. No one holds this against them, and they’re admitted into the stadium just like their burgers-and-beer brethren.
Nittany Lion congregants first gathered at one of the 7 Wonders of Centre County in 1960, when the stadium replaced previous fields on campus named for Bellefonte native and onetime state governor James Beaver. Four years later, 50,144 fans watched Penn State crush Pittsburgh 28-0.
Since then, the stadium has undergone several expansions and now rises so high that, lighted at night, it resembles some kind of alien mothership waiting to depart for the stars.
Depending on the game, many in the stands probably feel as if they’re in heaven anyway.
•Beaver Stadium’s record crowd was 110,753 for the Sept. 14, 2002, game against Nebraska, won 40-7 by the Nittany Lions. Penn State does count media, bands, ushers and other stadium personnel in its attendance figures. Officially holding 107,501, Michigan’s stadium, dubbed “The Big House,” claims top honors among college stadiums.
•Penn State added lights to Beaver Stadium in 1984.
•During a 1978 expansion, Penn State cut the stadium into sections and raised them eight feet by hydraulic jacks so that precast concrete seating could be installed in the stadium’s inner circle where a running track had been.
7 WONDERS SO FAR
Mount Nittany, 4th Fest, Neff’s Round Barn, Penn’s Cave and the Grange Fair have been named earlier this week. The final wonder will be named Saturday.