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Jeff Byers: Taking Advantage of Home Field Advantage

by on October 16, 2012 6:18 AM

Penn State has decided to hold off on some facilities upgrades with the financial situation being a little rocky in the wake of the NCAA sanctions. So, upgrades to the swimming pool and tennis facility aren’t on the immediate horizon. Facilities at Penn State and State College are, or should be, hot topics right now.

Let’s start with Beaver Stadium. Few would argue the stadium is a good facility, and it brings in significant revenue seven times a year. But it is time for more revenue to be generated from the stadium. Concerts - or at least a concert - should be held there every year. Pick an act or two, or a date or two with multiple acts, and let the stadium produce some much-needed extra revenue for the athletic department. Bring in a Kenny Chesney or Jimmy Buffett and take advantage of the tailgating experience that Beaver Stadium provides for those fans. It would be a huge boon to the area’s economy in the late spring or early summer.

Getting U2 or the Killers or the Dave Matthews Band would be a huge coup and would give folks who might never attend a football game here a reason to come and spend their money at Beaver Stadium and in State College. At some point, a Penguins/Flyers game has to happen (and it should be scheduled in a year in which the collective bargaining agreement has not expired or we know the game will not be played). Having a concert or two each year would make the experience unique and would build excitement, assuring large crowds and significant revenue.

A soccer game featuring a couple of world powers or a preseason NFL game (perhaps the Steelers and Eagles?) would also provide new opportunities to generate additional income and additional excitement. Penn State needs to start thinking outside of the press box and take advantage of what it has to offer.

Now to the Little Lions‘ football home. Memorial Field is a truly historic site with a venerable history. The setting is quite unlike anything else in high school football. But there are some very real concerns that need to be addressed. With seating that is substandard, facilities that are non-existent, parking that is challenging at best, and, oh yeah, the little matter of a sinkhole that is threatening to swallow up the people in attendance (well, OK, that might be overstating it a bit) - it is time to get serious about renovations or the need to find a new location for a new stadium. The logistics of playing a game there are truly absurd. It would be tough to watch State High play its games elsewhere but it’s even tougher watching the team play in a substandard facility with players and fans registering legitimate complaints. Perhaps State High could work out an agreement with Penn State and borrow the infamous black curtain from the Jordan Center to put over the top two-thirds of Beaver Stadium for its Friday night home games?

The new hockey arena will be a state-of-the-art facility and should provide an excellent home-ice advantage for the Nittany Lions when play opens there next season. That arena will also get plenty of use and should provide great opportunities for additional revenue avenues as well.

Then there’s Rec Hall. It, like Memorial Field for State High, provides a nostalgic and unique home for its teams. But it needs help. The wrestling program will sell out its home meets and that’s a good thing. But Rec Hall needs to grow, needs to improve. Sure, the Nittany Lions could pay to rent the Jordan Center and get larger crowds, but that would take away from the atmosphere generated at Rec Hall and would guarantee that some of the gate would not result in the needed revenue. Penn State instead needs to take advantage of the opportunities that facility could provide by upgrading the concessions, the rest rooms, the seating, the entire facility. Building a parking garage on the lot across from Rec Hall, off Atherton Street, would also greatly help patrons wanting to attend events there.

Penn State also needs to get off its high horse and reopen Rec Hall to residents who want to use it. There needs to be a way to foster the strained relations between town and gown, and if there is a nominal fee residents need to pay to use the facility during the off-hours, so be it. I think folks would be willing to pony up if the money were being used to help upgrade and maintain the facility.

The shows must go on, and the stadiums and arenas must accommodate them.

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Jeff Byers has been the wrestling team’s traveling announcer since 1990.
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