In November, the State College Area School board was presented with two options for potential renovations to Memorial Field in downtown State College. On Monday night, the board made a decision.
After the November meeting, the district’s Facilities and Grounds Subcommittee further discussed the options. Ed Poprik, office of physical plant director, authored a letter delivered to the board Monday in which the subcommittee recommended “option B.” The board unanimously agreed.
The architecture firm Weber Murphy Fox outlined the two options in a PowerPoint presentation made to the board in November. “Option A” and “option B” each created more seating for the field and proposed construction of a plaza that would connect the Nittany Avenue entrance of the field with the Sidney Friedman Park entrance.
Poprik said the options each cost about $8.5 million, but “option A” would have required an “extensive gutting” of the Nittany Avenue building, which would have served only as a space for locker rooms and restrooms.
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Moving forward with “option B” will require the Nittany Avenue building to be demolished, but the building lies within the Holmes-Foster-Highlands neighborhood, which is on the National Parks Service register of historic places. This designation requires a process, which includes posting the intentions to develop on the building, providing public notice, informing adjacent neighbors and scheduling of a meeting with the State College borough historic resources commission, all within a 90-day time frame.
The process is underway, but Poprik said the entire demolition and construction process is in the early stages.
“Even though these plans look very definitive, they really are not,” Poprik said. “The work to date has been to decide whether to keep the building or not.”
The work began in September 2015 when the board approved a resolution committing the district to keeping the field downtown.
In November 2015, the board approved a resolution recommending the removal of the building after determining renovation was cost prohibitive. As part of the resolution, the board offered the building to the State College borough, but the borough would have been responsible for removing the structure, while the district would have retained the land. The borough declined that offer.
After the borough declined, the board began the process of exploring renovations for the field, which now requires a community forum.
“I think it’s going to be really helpful and interesting to get community feedback around this option now that we’re moving forward with a particular option,” school board President Amber Concepcion said. “I think it will be a really productive process when we have the community forum.”
The community forum is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 20.