First phase of Penn State’s Beaver Stadium renovations approved. This is what will change

The Penn State board of trustees gave final approval Friday to spend $70 million on the first phase of Beaver Stadium’s renovation.

It sets the stage for the fourth-largest stadium in the world to undergo $700 million worth of changes over the next four years, with this phase of the project set to be done by August 2027.

The proposal was received near-unimous approval, with trustee Barry Fenchak as the lone vote against it.

Fenchak stated his opposition was about his perceived lack of information on what the best path forward was for the stadium.

A board of trustees committee on Thursday unanimously advanced the proposal to the full board.

Penn State Athletic Director Pat Kraft told the Center Daily Times on Thursday that it may only be a two-phase project, with the 2025 and 2026 football seasons potentially being impacted by the project.

Trustee Ted Brown voiced his support for the decision to move forward with alterations to Beaver Stadium.

“I have to say, as I said yesterday, I’m so excited that we’re finally gonna do something with Beaver Stadium,” Brown said. “It is one of the most frequently asked questions by fans, alumni and so forth. And I want to give credit to leadership, especially Pat and (university president) Neeli (Bendapudi) for this proposal.”

About $90 million in projects related to the athletic department were also voted on and approved Friday.

Alterations to the Greenberg Sports Complex, addition of an air facility for Olympic sport practice use and renovations to the East Area Locker Room were all unanimously approved.

Renovations to the Jeffrey Field and the creation of a soccer operational facility just south of the field and renovations to the Lasch Football Building were also approved, with Fenchak the sole vote of opposition to each.

What are the Beaver Stadium renovations?

In the short term, about $30 million to $35 million will go toward design costs, $29 million toward winterization (eg improved insulation, drainage and plumbing) and the rest addressing pressing issues like field lighting.

The design process is expected to start next month and, Kraft said, will likely take nine to 12 months — another official said 15 months — to complete. The winterization will allow Beaver Stadium to operate in below-freezing conditions, meaning it should be able to host any potential College Football Playoff games for the 2024 season when the playoffs expands to 12 teams and programs will host first round matchups on their campuses.

In the long term, the full $700 million project should see a number of changes at Beaver Stadium, such as:

  • Upgraded concession offerings

  • Improved restrooms

  • Better circulation

  • Increased concourse spaces

  • Improved Wi-Fi/cellular service

  • Additional premium seating (eg suites and boxes)

  • Improved access for broadcasting

Who’s paying for this?

In the wake of significant university budget issues, officials repeatedly emphasized that no tuition dollars — and none of the university’s state appropriation — would be used toward Beaver Stadium renovations. Costs would instead be paid for by the athletic department.

Essentially, the university takes on debt with the athletic department paying it all back. According to Thorndike, the university and athletic department run projections to make sure there’s enough incoming revenue to cover new and existing debts.

“As a self-sustaining department — meaning its generated revenues are equal to or more than its operational costs — Intercollegiate Athletics is fiscally sound and will generate the revenue to pay for this project and more,” Thorndike added in a news release. “When the renovation is complete, the return on investment will be significant, bringing in additional financial resources to Intercollegiate Athletics.”

The department receives a large amount of money from the Big Ten through its media rights’ deal, and a new deal is set to kick in on July 1 that pays the conference $7 billion over seven years.

Hi, I’m Chiki