Several college programs around the country have recently grabbed headlines by taking the facilities arms race to a new level: Central Florida plans to build a lazy river to lure recruits, for instance, and Clemson just constructed a $55 million facility that includes laser tag and mini golf.
Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said Monday not to expect those perks anytime soon in Happy Valley.
“That’s not who we are,” she said during a news conference at Penn State York on the first stop of the Penn State Coaches Caravan around the state. “That’s not how we do things.”
Penn State’s 20-year Facilities Master Plan includes plans for 11 new facilities while renovating eight others. Absent from the current blueprints are new Putt-Putt courses or a sand volleyball court.
Barbour agreed that, even if those additions might help with recruiting, they simply take the facilities arms race too far. Penn State is about providing optimal “learning, training, teaching, conditioning,” she said, and a round of laser tag doesn’t exactly align with those goals.
“I don’t think that’s Penn State,” she reiterated. “I don’t think that’s necessary from the standpoint of, ‘Do they address the teaching/learning needs of our students?’”
Among Penn State’s first five priorities for its facilities plan is a 450,000-square-foot Center of Excellence, which will centralize student-athlete services such as performance enhancement, sports performance, sports science facilities and a nutrition center. There is not yet a cost estimate for the plan.
“The arms race is a reality in what we do,” Barbour said. “We don’t have to win it, we don’t have to lead it. We got to run the race. We got to be in it.”