The new ballpark will be constructed east of Porter Road, near Beaver Stadium and the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions will play their home slate at the planned facility from March through May and a minor league baseball team to be located in State College will play its home schedule there from June to August, allowing both groups to pool their resources and provide a new venue for Penn State and the Centre Region.
"This new ballpark will have many positive impacts on the region," said Gary C. Schultz, senior vice president for finance and business/treasurer of the university. "While offering a new venue for family activity during the summer months, the new ballpark will promote local businesses, support job growth, and stimulate our local economy. This is very exciting project for Penn State and Centre County."
The ballpark will be oriented to the east, offering excellent views of Mount Nittany, and strategically sited to minimize excavation and reduce construction costs. The design of the facility will complement the nearby Jordan Center, Beaver Stadium and Multisport Indoor Facility to further the concept of an "athletic village," on the eastern end of campus.
With a variety of seating options ranging from suites to informal seating on a grass berm, the ballpark will have a capacity of approximately 6,000 spectators. It will include offices for Penn State coaches and minor league administrators, along with clubhouses for Penn State, the minor league team and a visiting team.
The minor league team's ownership group has pursued Commonwealth Capital funding through the Centre County Industrial Development Authority. Pennsylvania Act 40 of 2004, which was signed on June 22, 2004, includes an authorization of Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds of up to $15 million for the project, and Schultz said he understands Governor Ed Rendell is favorably inclined to provide some portion of those funds, which must be matched with local funding.
Penn State will contribute land, parking, intersection improvements and $5 million in gift funds invested by intercollegiate athletics toward the match, while the value of the minor league franchise can also be included toward the match. In total, Schultz said, $12 million in matching funds is available to move ahead with the design.
The minor league ownership group, which also owns the Altoona Curve minor league team, has plans in place to acquire another franchise that requires the new ballpark to be available for use in June of 2006, meaning the university will pursue an aggressive schedule throughout the coming months to see the facility constructed within one year.
L. Robert Kimball & Associates of State College was appointed in November to design plans for baseball, soccer and softball facilities. Upon learning of interest by a professional baseball ownership group in locating a team in State College, and realizing a facility large enough to accommodate a minor league team could not be constructed on the current baseball facility site at Beaver Field, Schultz said Kimball & Associates and the university's Office of the Physical Plant evaluated sites and settled on the area east of Beaver Stadium.
The project will create about 500 new parking spaces on Porter Road with easy access from Park Avenue. These parking spaces will satisfy current parking deficiencies for commuters and Jordan Center events, while at the same time parking adjacent to the Jordan Center and Beaver Stadium can be used for ballpark events.
Efforts are underway to relocate the football parking spaces that will be displaced by the construction of the new ballpark. Kimball & Associates' work on the softball and soccer facilities may also yield additional football parking.
The University will begin seeking planning and zoning approvals from College Township this month and preliminary plans will be submitted to the board for approval in March, when authorization to proceed with site utilities, foundations and general site work will also be requested. In May, final design plans will be submitted to the board for approval, allowing 12 months to complete construction of the ballpark in May of 2006.
The facility will be owned by the university and operated by the minor league team, whose owners will employ a general manager, sales and marketing personnel, a groundskeeper and box office personnel, as well as bearing responsibility for concessions and other ballpark operations. Schultz said university officials anticipate a 10-year agreement with two 10-year options.
"We are confident that we will be able to work through the details of revenue sharing and the allocation of costs, as we move toward finalizing the operating agreement," Schultz said. "By sharing the costs of one baseball facility, both organizations will benefit from lower operating costs."