Beaver Stadium is in for massive changes — but an exact timetable and price are still not yet known.
Beaver Stadium will undergo sizable renovations likely no earlier than 2023, outside the initial five-year window of Penn State’s Facilities Master Plan, which was announced Monday morning.
The extensive upgrades will take three to four years to finish, pegging a completed Beaver Stadium at 2026 or 2027 at the earliest. Planned renovations include an increase in chairback seating, new restrooms, new concessions (locations and options), wider concourses and additional premium seating options.
“If we could start renovating Beaver Stadium today, we would,” Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said during a public presentation Monday afternoon at Hintz Alumni Center. “We’re doing Beaver Stadium as quickly as can be expected.”
Penn State’s home for football since 1960 will also see its capacity dip to accommodate wider seats. Beaver Stadium, which currently holds 106,572, will be knocked down to about 103,000 by the end of the project.
“We intend to stay at or above 100,000,” Deputy Athletic Director Phil Esten said. “That’s an important number for us. ...We think that’s a competitive advantage for us.”
Additionally, the corners of Beaver Stadium will widen to accommodate FIFA guidelines. Barbour said Penn State has had discussions with international soccer officials, as well as NHL representatives, about using the venue to host non-football sporting events.
As far as the exterior changes, Beaver Stadium will have a new “skin” — a brick and limestone facade that will cover the outside of the venue.
A price for the renovations has not yet been released, and an estimate won’t be available until the project gets closer. The funding will rely heavily upon philanthropic gifts and revenue generated by the athletic department.
In the Facilities Master Plan’s first five years, starting in the 2018-19 academic year, Penn State plans on constructing four new buildings — a Center for Excellence, new indoor practice facility, new natatorium, and indoor tennis facility — and renovating Jeffrey Field, the home to Nittany Lion men’s and women’s soccer.
So, why not include Beaver Stadium renovations in that phase? The specific changes, such as whether the student section will remain bleachers, are not yet fully designed.
“To figure out what Phase 1 is, you have to design the entire thing,” Barbour said. “Based on the complexity, we think there’s a significant amount of time investment in actual design, sequencing and the funding model.”
The actual renovation process is expected to mirror Texas A&M’s handling of its football stadium, Kyle Field. Penn State’s architecture design firm, Populous, previously worked with the Aggies. And Kyle Field’s renovations, which finished in 2015 after starting in 2013, cost $450 million.
Penn State officials have not spoken directly with Texas A&M representatives about their upgrade process, but do want to stick to a similar model.
“We want to make sure we’re prepared to do that in consecutive years so there’s as little impact to our fans as possible,” Esten said.
And, ultimately, a primary reason for the changes to Beaver Stadium is the fan experience.
With national college football attendance numbers suffering, these changes reflect growing necessities, even if the capacity will decrease.
“When you look at Beaver Stadium, we’re talking about some really significant infrastructure needs that stand out,” Barbour said. “Those are non-negotiables in terms of, ‘Do we or don't we?’ We need to address that from a fan standpoint. ... We need to help motivate fans to come to games.”