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UPDATED: Beaver Stadium Upgrades to Increase Wheelchair Seating by 33 Percent

on September 23, 2010 7:09 AM

UPDATED @ 7:09 a.m. Thursday: The upgrade project will bring the total number of wheelchair-accessible seats in the Beaver Stadium stands to 331, up from the current 248, according to additional data released by Penn State. That amounts to an increase of about 33 percent. Sixty-four of the current accessible seats are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act because their companion seats are behind -- not adjacent to -- the handicapped accommodations. New details have been incorporated into the article below.

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A $10 million renovation project will bring 147 wheelchair-accessible seats and 147 companion seats to Beaver Stadium by the 2011 football season.

The improvement project, approved without dissent by the Penn State trustees on Friday, will begin after the Nittany Lions' last home football game in November 2010, Senior Vice President for Finance Al Horvath said. He spoke at the Board of Trustees' regular meeting.

The new seats will be situated on lower levels along the east, north and west stadium stands, according to an administration presentation. The changes, to include four new access ramps and new handicapped-accessible bathrooms, will cause a net loss of 416 seats in the stadium. It now seats 107,282 people.

"We're going to remove the first three rows of seats in the east and west stands, and put in a level platform where those three rows of seats existed to provide (Americans with Disabilities Act)-compliant wheelchair seats," associate athletic director Mark Bodenschatz said in a news release.

"One of the things ADA requires is that you have dispersed seating that's not just centralized in one area," he went on. "Expanding ADA seating beyond the north end-zone field-level seats and the south end-zone main-concourse seats provides opportunities for multiple viewing points throughout the field."

Bodenschatz said the ADA will soon require stadiums to set aside 0.5 percent of their seats for ADA-complaint and companion access. "Although venues don't need to come into compliance unless they're doing other major renovations, Penn State is being proactive in beginning to make changes now, rather than waiting until any major renovation projects are planned down the road," the news release reads.

Right now, spokeswoman Lisa Powers said, the stadium stands count 248 wheelchair-accessible seats: 50 at the field level near the north end zone, 14 in a northwest corner, 78 at the 60th-row cross aisle near the south end zone, 40 in the south club seating and 66 in the south upper deck.

Sixty-eight of those current handicapped seats are not ADA-compliant because their companion seating is located behind, and not adjacent to, the wheelchair areas, Powers said. She said all of the wheelchair-accessible seats will be ADA-compliant after the project is complete.

It will bring the total number of wheelchair-accessible seats in the stadium stands to 331: 147 spread among the east, north and west seating areas; 78 at the 60th-row cross aisle near the south end zone; 40 in the south club seating; and 66 in the south upper deck.

Some additional ADA-compliant seats are available in the east-side suites, Powers said. 

Horvath said the $10 million project also will include some storm and sanitary upgrades and 3,400 square feet of secure storage space.

In other facilities-related developments Friday:

  • The trustees heard about the university's ongoing effort to replace aging  fire alarms and install emergency elevator phones in buildings across University Park. Right now, in an initial phase, fire alarms are being replaced in 18 buildings. Longer term, a total of 60 buildings will have their fire alarms replaced -- at a total cost of $3.25 million. Meanwhile, Penn State is completing a 66-building effort to install emergency phones in 107 elevator cars. That work is expected to cost more than $1 million. (Earlier coverage: Power Outage Stalled Penn State Elevator, Trapped Student)
  • The trustees agreed to let the university lease 1.8 acres of land to Mount Nittany Medical Center. The land will be used to add parking spaces and accommodate the expansion of a cancer center there. In exchange, the medical center has agreed to lease to Penn State one acre of nearby, medical center-owned land. "When combined with the property the university already owns, it will be used for possible future construction of additional medical office and services facilities on the Mount Nittany medical campus," Penn State noted in a news release. The medical center is a partner of the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute. Both leases will last 60 years at a total cost of $1.
  • The trustees witnessed a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Biobehavioral Health Building, to be situated just south of Henderson Building between the Old Main lawn and the HUB-Robeson Center. Construction will begin in October, with a building opening expected in November 2012. The facility, to include 93,500 square feet, is expected to cost $48.1 million. (Earlier coverage: New Building Planned near HUB)
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