Most Penn State fans got a look inside Beaver Stadium for the first time in five months this weekend at the Blue White game, which drew more than 70,000 people. Seven times a year in the fall, of course, the stadium holds closer to 100,000. But what about the other 357 days of the year, especially during the frigid winter months that State College just leapt out of?
Paul Ruskin, Penn State’s main spokesman in the Office of the Physical Plant, knows every nook and cranny of Beaver Stadium, and all that goes into maintaining a top-notch Division 1 college football stadium throughout the offseason.
Most ostensibly, the stadium is maintained and lit up multiple times throughout the offseason for recruiting visits. Making a good impression on recruits is important, and it’s essential to show that their potential field is in tip-top shape.
“So much work and preparation goes on at Beaver Stadium in the offseason because once the season comes, everything must be functional,” Ruskin said. “A big reason why everything is kept up and running is recruiting, because when we host the athletes at the stadium, you want to put your best foot forward.”
There are also other entities in and around the stadium that keep the place in the public view. Beaver Stadium plays host to the Mount Nittany Club, which is used for special events, and the All-Sports Museum. Both are kept fully functioning during offseason months and accept thousands of visits annually.
“During the offseason, fans still love to come to the stadium and visit the All-Sports Museum,” Ruskin said. “It remains an ideal destination for Nittany Lion fans from all around.”
The Office of the Physical Plant is responsible for year-round maintenance of the stadium. A portion of the stadium is shut down, as it becomes “winterized.” This winterization process includes the draining of pipes, the addition of eco-friendly antifreeze to toilets, and flush valves being taken apart. A yearly evaluation is conducted during this offseason by an outside structural engineer. This yearly evaluation consists of scouring the stadium for any cracks in the foundation that may have occurred due to freezing conditions, locating any potential liabilities (broken fences, tripping hazards, sharp objects, etc.), and just ensuring that the stadium is structurally sound and able to properly and safely function.
Inside of the stadium, there are a total of 11 elevators (nine passenger and two freight). These are left on in case maintenance teams need to move around quickly for repairs. These elevators also help transport anybody working within the stadium, as even in the offseason Beaver Stadium still serves as an active office for some people in the athletic department.
The primary maintenance team consists of two plumbers, two electricians, and two electronic technicians (these technicians support the scoreboard and AV system). The crew is on call 24/7, and is ready at any moment to fix problems that may occur. Their duties consist of verifying that temperatures are correct in places like suites and the museum, ensuring that the stadium lights and fire alarms function properly, and essentially caring for the places that are both occupied and unoccupied.
Sensors located throughout the stadium are monitored 24/7 by OPP’s Central Control System, which houses one of the largest remote controlled monitoring systems in the country. These sensors help keep temperatures regulated, and can also alert maintenance crews if certain gas levels become hazardous, especially in places that are normally occupied.
“I look at it this way,” Ruskin said. “It costs very little to keep a pipe from freezing, but if that pipe bursts and causes property damage, the ensuing maintenance and repair costs could cost millions. The maintenance required to keep Beaver Stadium functioning properly goes a long way in preventing any damage that could result from improper care.”
Another big part of offseason activity is stadium security. Although it may look unoccupied and relatively unguarded during the winter, don’t be fooled. Beaver Stadium is fortified with stout locked gates all around the complex, electronic monitoring, card access, and cameras located throughout various locations within the confines. Basically, you need to have a reason to be inside the stadium.
“Security really tightened up after 9/11. Twenty to 25 years ago, the stadium was essentially open to the public most of the time,” Ruskin said. “Professors would run stadium stairs in the morning, and the stadium did not have all of the amenities that it possesses now. However, after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, security increased immensely due to Beaver Stadium’s role as an important public venue.”
You might want to think twice before you attempt to complete any libidinous items off your Penn State bucket list that involve Beaver Stadium. Cameras serve a vital role in maintaining a high level of security at the stadium year-round.
“Security is expensive, but good security is far more valuable than having any incident occur,” Ruskin said.
Beaver Stadium is being renovated this spring and summer, with some new additions already visible to the public. A new scoreboard is being installed, as well as a new and improved sound system to compliment it. There will also be more than 1,000 LED lights installed underneath bleacher seating this summer. These bright, eco-friendly lights will serve as utility lighting, for the purpose of illuminating walkways and ramp-ways.
Additional summer maintenance will include the power washing of fan seating areas. Machines with water pressure of more than 40,000 PSI will be used.
As you can tell, Beaver Stadium is far from dormant in the offseason. It may seem quiet but Beaver Stadium is still quite busy, even when football season is over.