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Penn State Athletics: What’s Next? Seven Ideas Following the First Round of Facility Upgrades

Penn State athletics finds itself in the middle of a massive facilities upgrade plan which spans from Beaver Stadium to Jeffrey Field. While the Beaver Stadium project — which a Board of Trustees committee will discuss in a special meeting on May 21 — is expected to have a $700 million price tag, the other upgrades are footing a bill of around $68 million.

It’s the most expansive set of facility improvements the department has ever undertaken, but it also opens the door to a question: What is next?

“It’s not a shouldn’t, or can’t. I think it’s evaluating the urgent needs and where we need to be,” Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Pat Kraft told StateCollege.com last year. “And then getting a real understanding from coaches of what they need and how we move forward for each program. Like everyone’s different, right? So a lot of our projects right now touch every single athlete.”

So what might be next? Time will tell, but here are seven fun ideas to consider.

Basketball Facility: The idea of a new basketball facility is a tricky one. Penn State has put a lot of money into the practice facilities over the past 10 years or so, and for what it is, the Bryce Jordan Center has been molded into a reasonably up to date practice home for the Nittany Lions. Unless Penn State starts playing in a completely different building it’s probably not going to build an entirely new place just for practice. Now could it gut that side of the building and start over? Maybe, but that’s a tough ask, especially since Penn State only co-owns the building in the first place. Broadly though, Penn State could attack basketball in its next round of facility upgrades, what that looks like depends on who you ask. As for a new building entirely for the games themselves – not the worst idea in the world – but not a cheap one either. Somebody give Terry Pegula a call.

Swimming and Diving: The swimming and diving programs were part of Sandy Barbour’s original 20-year master plan but the best laid schemes of mice and athletic directors often go awry, and that – like a lot of things – never got off the ground. It seems like this program has been screaming for upgrades for the better part of forever, so no time like the present. There’s something to be said for the fact that these investments probably won’t A: bring in more money and B: change the dynamics of college aquatics, markedly change the product itself – but if Penn State is looking to simply upgrade everything for the sake of a continued wholistic approach to athletics, this ain’t a bad place to start.

Indoor Tennis: Penn State’s outdoor tennis facility is pretty nice all things considered, the indoor facility is very much tennis courts with a roof. A lot like swimming it’s probably safe to assume that Penn State is never going to be a tennis power but that’s not really the point. A new tennis facility could also include pickleball courts, which would appeal to that sports’ ongoing rise among the public. Everyone wins.

Golf Clubhouse: Penn State’s clubhouse is fine, and the fact you can practice chipping and putting for free is a nice bit of community outreach. That being said, as a dining facility and as an event space it has limited utility. Clubhouses are more a status symbol than anything else, but a reimagined facility could include more indoor practice assets and greater utilization for events. There’s a good argument to be made that other courses in the area already have cornered the market in this area, but we’re in the “all the money in the world” part of the brainstorming.

Gaming Center: If Penn State wants to get ahead of the curve, competitive video gaming — even at the collegiate levelis absolutely a thing. People might roll their eyes at the notion, but there is money to be made here and it’s undeniable that video games are here to stay. This is the longest shot on the list, but mixing a competitive space with public facing usage for both local and online gaming as well as VR experiences isn’t the most outrageous thing in the word.

Centralized Fan Dining: Xfinity Live! is a staple of the Philadelphia tailgating scene, a multi-bar facility in the center of a sea of parking lots which serves as something of a centralized point between all of the arenas in that same area. The challenge here for Penn State is more a function of “where do you put it?” then anything else. Assuming you can get creative about moving parking or other spaces, the idea of a large resultant/bar area in the middle of the Jordan Center, Beaver Stadium, Medlar Field and Pegula Ice Arena, area, is a fun one to think about. It will take some business away from downtown State College, but that probably doesn’t run the risk of struggling too much during football season.

Covered Tailgating Lot: If Penn State is looking for more things to sell and assets to give to fans, covered tailgating areas wouldn’t be the worst premium thing to have on hand. Some even come with heated ceilings, imagine sitting at a cold November tailgating only to warm up under a heating lamp. Paying for that sort of parking seems like a more popular premium experience than a wildly expensive tunnel club. That’s just me though.

Photo via AVAdek