Park Avenue could get a new name, thanks to support from thousands of people across the country.
Close to 7,000 people signed a petition during the past month supporting the change of Park to Paterno Way, in honor of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.
State College and College Township staffs have received the petition, which calls for renaming the section of Park between North Atherton Street and U.S. Route 322, and the issue will appear on coming council agendas for discussion. The road travels through both municipalities and Penn State’s campus.
Park Avenue is also known as state Route 3007, and state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Marla Fannin said the renaming of a state road usually is driven by legislation. If that happens, PennDOT would create and place new signs.
Tony Ricciardi, program director and radio personality at 93.7 The Bus, and a 2001 Penn State graduate, posted the petition online the day after Paterno died from lung cancer. He said he and Jerry Valeri, of radio station Majic 99, first toyed with the idea in October, while wondering how Penn State would honor the coach once he retired.
They dropped the discussion in November, when former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested on child sex abuse charges, and Paterno was removed from his head coach position.
When Paterno died, Ricciardi wondered if Penn State would name something for him.
“I got the capability on the website to whip up a Web form real quick,” he said.
On Jan. 23, he posted the petition. He sent the link out to a few people on Facebook and, the next day, it had 1,000 signatures.
“We only mentioned it on the air, collectively, four or five times,” he said. “But it kind of took on a life of its own on Facebook.”
Ricciardi said he chose Park Avenue because it travels through communities and campus, past the stadium and McKee Street, where Paterno’s family lives, the faith center named for Sue Paterno, and Mount Nittany Medical Center, where Joe Paterno died.
“At least on Park it’s shared by everybody,” Ricciardi said. “That kind of brings everything together.”
The borough has a naming policy, which requires 50 resident signatures; Ricciardi’s petition had 130 borough signatures out of the 7,000 total. Next, Borough Council will consider and hold a public hearing on the proposed name change.
The issue is not yet on a council agenda, but will appear next month or April.
Ricciardi will formally present the petition to Township Council during its Thursday night meeting, and the township likely will await the borough’s decision on the matter, according to Manager Adam Brumbaugh.
College Township doesn’t have a policy for renaming streets.
“My recommendation to council is basically to wait, because of the fact that Park Avenue is in two municipalities,” Brumbaugh said. “We have to come to an agreement. I think it would be very difficult for one municipality, and not the other, to be involved in renaming their section of Park Avenue.”
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the university doesn’t have any jurisdiction over the road, so Penn State has no position on the suggestion.
“As we have said, there have been a number of proposed ideas and the board of trustees will take these into consideration, as well as seek input from a wide array of university constituencies with coach Paterno’s family and others, on how his legacy will be acknowledged,” she said.
Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910.