Penn State unveils 20-year plan to improve athletic facilities

Penn State athletics is preparing for a major facelift.

As part of Penn State’s Facilities Master Plan, a 20-year project that was announced Monday morning, 11 new facilities are expected to be constructed with plans to renovate eight current complexes. The cost is not yet known, but a lasting effect is sure to be felt.

“This Facilities Master Plan will have a huge impact over a significant period of time on not only student-athletes and their success, but also our entire community,” Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said during a public presentation Monday afternoon at Hintz Alumni Center. “It’s a road map, and with any road map, there will be detours and re-routing along the way. But we’ve identified our programs’ needs and conditions for success.”

The five “priority projects” — renovations to soccer’s Jeffrey Field, along with construction of four facilities in a Center of Excellence, indoor multi-sport practice facility, natatorium and indoor tennis facility — could get started as early as 2018 and could potentially be finished within five years.

Within the plan are also upgrades to Beaver Stadium, likely no earlier than 2023, including an increase in chairback seating, new restrooms and concessions, wider concourses, additional premium seating options and a brick and limestone exterior facade. There will also be a new parking deck just west of the venue.

Overall financial support for the facilities will be developed on a project-by-project basis and may include sources such as philanthropy, student support, athletics operational revenues, corporate partnerships and public-private partnerships.

Student fees would be used only for the natatorium and indoor tennis facility, both of which can be used recreationally.

A price for the Beaver Stadium renovations has not been released, but Barbour said Penn State will be seeking to raise at least $120 million for the five “priority projects” to commence.

“This is an aspirational plan,” Barbour said. “We’ll build what we can afford.”

That said, the athletic director said she isn’t concerned about coming up with the necessary funds. She’s confident in what the Penn State athletic department and surrounding community are capable of.

“With the numbers we represent, the community that we represent, the passion around intercollegiate athletics, I have no doubt in my mind that this community is going to support and move forward in a fundraising effort,” Barbour added.

And with that, here are the details of those first five undertakings:

▪  Center of Excellence: The new hub for Penn State’s student-athletes and coaches, the 450,000-square-foot Center of Excellence will be constructed where the East Area Locker Room is currently located. It will “centralize services and other resources for student-athletes, including performance enhancement, sports performance, and sports science facilities as well as a nutrition center,” according to Penn State’s news release. Additionally, the Center of Excellence will house the locker rooms and offices for the field hockey, soccer, lacrosse and tennis programs, with a 500-space parking facility under the center.

▪  Indoor practice facility: Similar to Holuba Hall, a new 108,000-square-foot practice facility will be attached to the Center of Excellence. It’ll be an indoor space for all 31 Penn State sports, specializing as a space for baseball, softball, golf, lacrosse and soccer.

▪  Natatorium: A new 130,000-square- foot facility, the natatorium will includea 10-lane, 50-meter competition pool, a separate lap pool for campus recreation and a diving well built for competition. It will be constructed on the current location of McCoy Natatorium (corner of Bigler and Curtin roads) or near Penn State’s outdoor track on Porter Road. That decision is expected to be made in the coming months. There will be facilities for the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, seating for 2,500 spectators and community locker rooms. McCoy Natatorium was built in 1967.

▪  Indoor tennis facility: The 100,000-square foot complex will feature 10 courts, whereas the current facility holds four courts. The structure, located west of the Field Hockey Complex, will be home to Penn State’s men’s and women’s tennis teams, provide seating for about 500 spectators and feature a pro shop.

▪  Jeffrey Field: The home to Penn State’s men’s and women’s soccer teams will undergo sizable upgrades, including new home and visiting locker facilities, covered seating via overhang on the west side of the stadium, better restrooms and concessions, a videoboard, lighting around the complex and media facilities. Jeffrey Field’s capacity, which is currently 5,000, will be about 4,000 after completion of the renovations.

Outside of Beaver Stadium and Jeffrey Field, renovations to the following facilities are also in the plan: Bryce Jordan Center, Lasch Football Building, Penn State Lacrosse Field, Multi-Sport Complex, Penn State Field Hockey Complex and Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park.

More new facilities are expected to be built at some point in the plan’s 20 years, too. Those facilities include an All-Sports Museum (located at intersection of University Drive and Curtin Road), a basketball practice facility, a cross country team house, a golf clubhouse and indoor practice facility, an outdoor track, and an Olympic sport training facility.

The basketball practice facility will be owned by the university, and the Bryce Jordan Center’s future renovations will be aimed at “improvements in environment from a basketball standpoint.” Deputy Athletic Director Phil Esten suggested seats might be moved closer to the basket or court.

Meanwhile, there are no wholesale changes expected to be made at Rec Hall. Eventually, the offices within Rec Hall will be moved to the Center for Excellence, but Penn State will continue to compete at the venue, which originally opened in 1928.

“We certainly didn’t want to vacate Rec Hall,” Barbour said. “That would’ve been a possibility, but with the history and environment, it’s somewhere we want to continue to compete in. But we feel that the everyday needs of our student-athletes would be better served in more modern facilities.”

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