Beaver Stadium $700M renovation approved | Local Sports

STATE COLLEGE — The second-largest college football venue in the country will get its much-needed facelift.

The Penn State Board of Trustees voted to approve a $700 million renovation of Beaver Stadium on Tuesday morning. The board approved the project by a 26-2 vote.

“It is vital,” Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi said. “I’ve come to understand that it’s vital to substantially transform the fan experience and the community experience. We are part of this community that relies on us. It will drive economic development throughout the region. If you think about the rural ‘T’ that we talk about, so many lives are dependent upon the success of Penn State. And frankly, this will set us up for a successful future, especially revenues for athletics.”

Bendapudi assured no tuition dollars or educational budget funding will be used towards the four-year Beaver Stadium renovation plan.

One of the trustees in opposition to the renovation, Barry Fenchak, outlined some of his concerns on his website. Fenchak said that he didn’t feel Penn State had the funds, philanthropic support or revenue to approve the project.

“As currently proposed, the $700 million Beaver Stadium renovation will be, by far, the largest capital expenditure in our athletics history and one of the largest (if not the largest) athletics capital projects in the history of college athletics,” Fenchak wrote. “I have researched this proposal at length and done the math. We can’t afford it.”

Opened on Sept. 17, 1960, Beaver Stadium has seen seven renovations in its history. Most have focused on increasing the size of the stadium to support the Nittany Lions’ growing fan base. When the stadium opened, it had a capacity of 46,284 seats. In 2001, the stadium expanded significantly to increase capacity to 106,572 to become the second-largest stadium in the US, and the third worldwide.

As part of the upcoming renovation, traditional bowl-style seating will be maintained and club seats, loge seats, and executive and founder’s suites will be added. The west side of Beaver Stadium will be demolished and renovated.

The renovation is also designed to improve circulation, update restrooms, upgrade concessions, and improve Wi-Fi and cellular service.

Construction is expected to begin in January 2025 and finish before the 2027 football season.

As Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Pat Kraft noted, in the 23 years since Beaver Stadium last underwent any changes, many of Penn State’s rival schools in the Big Ten and schools around the country have made significant financial investments to improve their stadiums.

Among the things Kraft pointed out was the need to replace the stadium’s “aging and deteriorating press box” as the investments there have been very minimal since moving to Beaver Stadium in 1960.

“It is time for Penn State to catch up to its peers,” Kraft said. “The understanding should be more than just average, more than just comparable to others, to be a model for the college and the NFL world with innovation experiences that are different and exciting, and technological.

“If we fail to act, we will face significant infrastructure issues in the years ahead and the cost of repair will only increase. To put it simply, renovations to Beaver Stadium are long overdue. It’s time to act and that time is now.”

According to Penn State Senior Vice President for Finance & Business/Treasurer Sara Thorndike, the university identified and analyzed three different options for the stadium: Repair, renovate and replace.

Thorndike said the $140 million repair option addressed essential repairs that are needed now, and while this option costs the smallest amount initially, the major maintenance needs over time are extensive, and this option does not respond to evolving industry standards.

The largest costs included in the repair estimate would cover structural painting and coding, video boards, controls and panels, plumbing roofs, sealing and coating, fencing, WiFi and elevator repairs. The biggest challenge is this option generates no new ticketed inventory or incremental revenues to pay for these repairs and future substantial major maintenance needs.

Demolishing Beaver Stadium and building a newer, but smaller venue was also on the table. However, that entire project would cost the university upwards of $1 billion.

“The option to replace the stadium with a smaller one would require a much greater investment,” Thorndike said. “A new stadium would generate higher revenues, but those revenues aren’t big enough to pay the significantly higher debt expense that would be necessary. This option results in a $1.3 billion deficit in the athletics fund balance over 30 years.”

Thorndike concluded that renovating Beaver Stadium was the only financially viable option. The $700 million renovation will be financed with debt over 30 years, resulting in a $44 million surplus to the athletics fund balance over that same period.

According to Thorndike, new ticket and premium seating revenues and $134 million in philanthropy and naming opportunities will help pay back the debt in construction costs.