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2013: The Year in Review, Area's Top News Stories

by and and on January 01, 2014 9:00 AM

There were plenty of attention-grabbing headlines in 2013.

Once again, most of the stories centered around Penn State. But unlike 2012, not every story coming out of Happy Valley was bad news. In fact, there's plenty of good news on our list of most memorable stories of 2013.

Here's a closer look at our picks for the top 10 stories of 2013:

1. SANCTIONS REDUCED

In September, the NCAA announced that it would reduce the unprecedented sanctions against Penn State's football program by gradually restoring scholarships starting next season. Officials did not rule out future modifications, such as reducing the four-year postseason ban.

The announcement came 14 months after NCAA president Mark Emmert levied the historic penalties in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Penn State had faced a cap of 65 scholarships starting in 2014, but instead will have 75 scholarships in 2014, 80 in 2015 and the full allotment of 85 in 2016.

“The executive committee's decision to restore football scholarship opportunities for more student-athletes at Penn State is an important recognition of the university's progress — and one I know it was pleased to make,” Emmert said.

The scholarship reduction was widely believed to be the most significant sanction. Penn State vacated wins from 1998 to 2011, was hit with a $60 million fine, and banned from the postseason from 2012 to 2015.

2. PEGULA OPENS

In October, Penn State opened its brand-new $90 million Pegula Ice Arena with a 4-1 win over Army. A crowd of 6,370 watched the first-ever hockey game in the building. Nittany Lion coach Guy Gadowsky was overwhelmed by the night and everything that went with it.

He was especially impressed with the Penn State student section.

“The student section was definitely the first star of the night, but it was a tremendous night for so many people,” he said. “What this building does for you is special. It’s so motivating to play here.”

The 5,782-seat Pegula Ice Arena features 14 luxury suites and 525 club seats. It was designed to maximize Penn State’s home-ice advantage. During the planning stage, Terry Pegula told then-Penn State associate athletic director Joe Battista that one of his goals was to build “the most rocking arena in college hockey.”

Opening night put the Pegula Ice Arena on the map. A national television audience watching on the Big Ten Network found out just how loud the building could get.

The design of the building also helps — Pegula features a low, flat ceiling lined with sheet metal. That intensifies the crowd noise.

3. PSU REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH VICTIMS

In October, Penn State announced that it had settled a civil suit involving 26 victims from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal and would pay out nearly $60 million.

“The terms of the settlements, which include a release of all claims against Penn State and other parties, are subject to confidentiality agreements,” the university said in a news release. “The aggregate dollar amount paid by the University for the 26 settled claims is $59.7 million and will be reflected in the University’s audited financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2013.”

According to the university, it believes that its various liability insurance policies cover its settlements and defense of claims and those expenses not covered by insurance will be funded from interest revenues from the university to its own self-supporting units.

Sandusky, a former defensive coach under the late Joe Paterno, was sentenced last October to no less than 30 and no more than 60 years in prison after being found guilty on 45 counts of child sex abuse.

4. GARMAN THEATRE CONTROVERSY

The story of the Garman Theatre will, apparently, continue into 2014.

The demolition of the historic theatre and neighboring Hotel Do De was scheduled to begin shortly before Christmas, but yet another delay stopped the wrecking ball from taking the fire and water ravaged building down.

Developer Ara Kervandjian wants to raze the Garman and Hotel Do De to create 32 units of workforce housing.

In the fall, he opened the Garman to the media for tours to document the sorry state of the Garman, which was severely damaged following a fire in September 2012. Those taking the tour had to wear masks due to the amount of mold in the decaying theatre.

Members of the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association are fighting the demolition because they believe the theatre can be saved. BHCA attorney Bruce Manchester said the group plans on taking the appeals process all the way to the state supreme court.

Stay tuned.

5. STATE HIGH EXPANSION PROJECT

At the Dec. 2 board meeting, Option 2 was selected as the preferred option of the State High Project. Six concepts were originally under consideration. Based on community survey results, the board unanimously voted on July 22 to remove all concepts not receiving 50 percent or more support from the community. The State High Project, if approved by district voters at the May 20, 2014 primary, will: build all core academic areas on the south side of Westerly Parkway; include a combination of renovation and new construction; and preserve a portion of the existing North school building to serve students and community needs. The cost range is estimated to be between $109 million and $115 million, according to the SCASD.

6. MEMORIAL FIELD RENOVATED

A 4,000 seat stadium, Memorial Field serves as the primary outdoor athletic venue for the State College Area School District, hosting several teams, physical education classes and community organizations, according to the State College Area School District. Phase 1 of the renovation plan is a $2.8 million project which was completed in the fall. It consisted of West side wall reconstruction and 1,500 new seats; a new entrance at the corner of Fraser Street and West Nittany Avenue; reconstruction of the Fraser Street sidewalk as a brick memorial walk; replacement of artificial turf; and storm water management enhancements provided by the Borough of State College, according to the SCASD. A rededication ceremony was held on Oct. 11. Memorial Field was originally named in honor of State College graduates who lost their lives in World Wars I and II. It has since been rededicated to honor fallen soldiers from all wars, according to StateCollege.com.

7. PSU STUDENT DIES IN FALL

Penn State student Conor MacMannis died Nov. 16 as a result of head trauma after falling from a ninth floor balcony at Penn Tower on Beaver Avenue. The death of the 20-year-old from Stafford, Va., was ruled accidental by Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers.

8. NEW BUSINESSES OPEN

Specialty store Trader Joe’s opened in State College in the beginning of November. Located on Patriot Lane off North Atherton Street, it offers more than 2,000 items under its own label. In the Northland Center, both SweetFrog and Ni Hao opened their doors. SweetFrog frozen yogurt shop opened in May; Ni Hao Asian Cuisine in January. In March, Quaker Steak &Lube returned to State College, after closing in 2008, at the location of the former Cinema 6 Theatre in the Benner Pike Plaza. The Pennsylvania-based restaurant has 42 locations nationwide. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit also came to State College, opening its doors at 333 Benner Pike over the summer. The Texas-based chain specializes in sandwiches, meat platters and barbecue.

9. ANOTHER MEMORABLE SEASON

Heading into the 2013 football season, the Penn State Nittany Lions had a tough act to follow.

Led by then first-year head coach Bill O'Brien, the 2012 Lions finished the season at 8-4. This season, the Lions were expected to struggle after losing several key players to the NFL and graduation. However, the Lions finished the year with a respectable 7-5 record. Among the wins was a thrilling 43-40 overtime victory against Michigan and a stunning 31-24 win at Wisconsin.

Despite unprecedented sanctions and no bowl to play for, attendance at Beaver Stadium was strong and the Lions played well at home, losing just twice.

It will be an interesting offseason. Just weeks after Penn State's season ended, O'Brien's name was being circulated as a candidate for several NFL head coaching jobs.

10. COLOR RUN COMES TO PSU

On Sept. 29, thousands of runners participated in the first ever Color Run at Penn State, an event organized in part by Homecoming. Some 10,000 participants bought out the ticket allotment for the “happiest 5K on the planet.” The race, which is known for dousing its participants with different colors of paint, started at Medlar Field and ran through the middle of campus.

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This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


Chris Morelli is the managing editor of The Centre County Gazette.


Staff Writer at The Centre County Gazette
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