Penn State’s Facilities Master Plan has been a hot-button topic in State College, and on Tuesday night, the senior principal of the company the athletic department has hired to consult and help develop the Master Plan addressed media members at LettermanS Sports Grill.
Scott Radecic is a Penn State graduate who was a linebacker on the football team in the early 1980s, where he was an Academic All-American and helped the Nittany Lions to their first national championship in 1983, over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Radecic is one of a team of a dozen-odd people who are working, along with Penn State Athletics, to help reshape the school’s athletic facilities through the Facilities Master Plan.
This is the largest athletic master plan that I’m aware of, that’s been undertaken in collegiate athletics…Most schools, we’re looking at half that amount of facilities.
Populous Senior Principal Scott Radecic
Question: We’ve heard a lot from others about what you’re doing, but can you tell us in your own words?
Answer: “The university hired our company, Populous, to perform an athletics Master Plan. So that’s going to encompass all 31 sports, all 24 venues, and it’s a holistic look at the facilities and how the facilities support the student-athletes, the administration, all the teams and where they practice and where they compete. And so it’s a look at all the aspects of how the athletic department operates, and what the student-athlete life is like. We’re here to look at the current operations, what’s working well, what’s not working so well, and then we’ll make recommendations based on our experience. We’ve been a company for 33 years (and) we’re the largest sports architecture firm in the world, and we’ve worked for over 130 different colleges and universities. And so we’ll bring that experience of working with other clients in the industry and around the world to Penn State University, Penn State Athletics, we’ll make recommendations, and we’ll offer different options and alternatives, we’ll help the university prioritize…And then put together a phased plan of implementation (that) gives them a road map of how to proceed with facility development.
“A typical Master Plan should have a good life of 7-10 years, it should probably be revisited occasionally, every 10 years or so (but) some Master Plans can last much longer than that.”
Q: You said a dozen (people are on your team), can you take us through the dynamics of that team and tell us what your role would be in that process?
A: “As one of the partners of the firm, I’m the principal in charge of the project. Ultimately, I am accountable of the success or failure of the project, any project that we do. But we have a host of architects, so right now we have people who specialize in what we call programming — conducting the user-group interviews, and facilitating the conversations with people to understand what works well, and what doesn’t work well. We have architects that specialize in the program development, which is taking all of that information and creating square footage assessments, and then allocating square footage to future needs. And then we have folks who will provide the conceptual designs...This is the largest athletic master plan that I’m aware of, that’s been undertaken in collegiate athletics…Most schools, we’re looking at half that amount of facilities. And we have landscape architects and urban planners that look at a lot of the planning aspects of this project, and coordinate with the people at the Office of Physical Plant, and the campus architects, and the landscape architect to make sure that we’re taking the campus design principles that extend across all of campus and then implement those so that the framework that we come up with for the Athletics Master Plan is consistent with the look and feel and how they want campus to develop.”
Q: You mentioned interviewing the people who are involved with the facilities on a day-to-day basis, how far along are you guys with that?
A: “You know, it’s hard to talk about specific dates. But we got hired at the end of September, and so for the last two and a half months, we’ve been conducting all of our goal-setting meetings and our user-group meetings with the various constituency groups across athletics and across the university. The process will take us into design after the first of the year and the plan is by next summer to have a plan that’s finalized that athletics can use as their road map. So, you know, we’re looking at next summer.”
Q: Do you receive a specific budget in which you have to work?
A: “We don’t. It’s very typical to hear that the plan has to be affordable, achievable, something that they can implement in phases, and that they can create priorities and have a strategy for how to do that. Because as we know, most of these projects are funded through donations, and it’s really the ability to generate new revenues from the projects, or to create new opportunities where owners want to contribute and be a part of what these buildings would mean to the student-athletes and to the program.”
Q: Obviously hiring your company is a case by case basis and a cost by cost basis. Should the Master Plan not be accepted by the university, is there still an allocation of money that goes toward you guys, and —
A: “Oh, it’s always accepted. I mean, you always develop a plan that gets accepted. I’ve never been a part of a Master Plan, a project where it hasn’t been accepted and it hasn’t begun to be implemented. So it will be, but it’s a matter of us listening to them and working through various options and different iterations in order to get plans that create sustainable solutions, create plans that fulfill the greater campus mission, the campus planning guidelines, and also are affordable and achievable, and they hit the highest priorities of the university. So it will be a successful plan, what we don’t know yet is what that plan is going to be.
Q: How much does it cost a school to hire your company?
A: (Laughs) “It’s a question that I’m not going to answer, but it does vary by the scope of work, how many venues and what’s the scope of work that you’re going to have.”
Q: A lot of the discussion has centered around Beaver Stadium. Do you have any insight yet as to how you’re going to approach that?
A: “Again, the process is, just with any sport, you look at what works well and what doesn’t work well, what are the goals for trying to improve the facility, and then the ways you can do that. So we haven’t started that process for any specific sport or building yet, but Beaver Stadium, again, is one of 24 venues that exist in the athletic department right now. It’s obviously one that gets the most conversation, the one that people talk about the most. I mean, the brand of athletics is (that) people think of Beaver Stadium almost first before they think of other athletic venues, but again, it’s just one of all the venues that need to be looked at.”
Q: It’s the one that generates the most revenue, though. Is there a balancing act of the focus you put on all the different facilities that you’re dealing with?
A: “You know, you really do give them all a pretty similar effort. You don’t concentrate on one and not concentrate on the other. All the venues are going to get a similar level of effort, (but) obviously one that’s bigger is going to take a little bit more time…Yeah, it’s a very important piece of the puzzle. Because not only are we looking at ways to improve the coaches’ daily activity, to improve the life of the student-athlete, but when it comes to any competition venue…We have to look at ways to make that as successful as possible. It’s obviously a very important piece of the Master Plan.”