Penn State

Penn State athletic director lays out vision for upgrade to facilities

Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour discusses the university’s long-term vision for its athletics facilities at the HUB-Robeson Center auditorium on Monday.
Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour discusses the university’s long-term vision for its athletics facilities at the HUB-Robeson Center auditorium on Monday. For the CDT

To build or to destroy? It appears the former will be the most likely course of action for Beaver Stadium, but the football field is far from the only athletic facility in need of attention.

Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour alongside other members of the Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics Strategic Communications spoke with students Monday at the HUB-Robeson Center auditorium to discuss their initial findings of their strategic planning process.

They unveiled a facility master plan to assess the current state of athletic facilities on campus, prioritize and sequence the need for changes and develop a source of revenue to fund changes.

The athletics department announced it will partner with Populous, one the the leading architecture and sports event planning firms in the world, earlier this month in hopes of attaining an efficient master plan for the 31 varsity sports on campus.

Barbour reaffirmed her preference to leave the football stadium as it is, while making necessary renovations to appease the 100,000 fans that fill one of the nation’s largest on-campus stadiums.

Just 14 months into her tenure at Penn State, following a 10-year stint in the same position at the University of California, Barbour said she loses sleep over a possible Beaver Stadium renovation.

“I wake up four in the morning, imagining what the number may be and it’s way bigger than any one of us wants it to be,” she said. “It may require us to dial back, and we realize some things we thought were needs are wants.”

Those thoughts may resonate from the $321 million renovation she spearheaded for Cal’s Memorial Stadium. From that project, Barbour said she learned to “be really deliberate for start-to-end about the financial plan. How are we going to afford this and what’s the case for support?”

Barbour acknowledged common gripes about the stadium’s concession options, lack of chair backs on bleacher seats and outdated plumbing, but said financial concerns are real.

“We are going to use this plan, this opportunity to better ourselves and use it as a compass to how we spend our time and resources,” Barbour said.

However, Beaver Stadium isn’t at the forefront of facilities that need an overhaul. Barbour stated the McCoy Natatorium, home of Penn State Aquatics since 1967, is in “pretty bad shape.”

Another facility Barbour recognized could be improved is Jeffrey Field, the home to men’s and women’s soccer. Barbour cited the lack of video replay capabilities on the scoreboard, use of portable toilets, and absence of home and away locker rooms among chief concerns at the field.

The event at the HUB was the first of three town hall-style meetings scheduled to talk about the findings. The subsequent meetings will take place at 4 p.m. Thursday with staff and faculty, and at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 with alumni and the general public.

Over 1,000 people, inside and outside the athletic department, have been engaged in the strategic plan and that number will continue to grow before they conclude their planning in December and initiate work plans in 2016 and beyond. Upgrades to facilities won’t come cheap, and Barbour will look to be cost effective as she tries to provide top-class facilities at Penn State.

“Every dollar saved is as good as a dollar made,” she said.