Ever since I was a child, Beaver Stadium always looked huge. Some say this is because it is huge. Others say it is because I was so small. Well, here I am at 26 years old and Beaver Stadium still looks huge to me. All of this time I never really thought about the history of the home of the Penn State Nittany Lion football team. The evolution of Beaver Stadium, the one that we know today, is actually an interesting one.
The History and Evolution of Beaver Stadium
With the annual Penn State Blue-White game approaching, it is a good time to delve deeper into the history of the stadium that thousands of people flock to on Saturdays during football season. Beaver Stadium has a capacity of 106,572 after its last upgrade in 2014. This is ‘just’ behind The Big House of Michigan. I attribute the second-place finish to Michigan’s seats being smaller, but I am not an architect. How did Beaver Stadium get to where it is today? Let’s take a walk through the evolution of Beaver Stadium.
“Old” Beaver Field
Old Beaver Field was constructed in 1892. It was centrally located on Penn State’s University Park campus. The first home to Penn State Football was named after the President of the Board of Trustees, James A. Beaver. According to Penn State’s website, Beaver was also governor and a civil war general. This field allowed about 500 fans to watch the Nittany Lions. In the first game at the “old” field, Penn State beat Western University of Pittsburgh (later to be known as the University of Pittsburgh) 32-0. This obviously was not the field that today’s Beaver Stadium was built off of. The evolution continues.
“New” Beaver Field
The middle of campus was deemed not to be the best place for a growing football program. In 1909 New Beaver Field was finished. The new home of the Nittany Lions was moved to the west side of University Park’s campus near current Rec Hall. New Beaver Field had a capacity of 30,000 fans. That is nearly 28% of the current capacity that Penn State fans are used to. The other difference, besides its obvious difference in size and location, was that New Beaver Field was originally constructed of wood. Wood would not be able to hold the Penn State student section today. New Beaver Field was reconstructed using steel in 1936.
The Final Move To Beaver Stadium
In 1959, the final move was made, but the evolution of Beaver Stadium does not stop there. After being forced to relocate after the 1959 season, the Nittany Lions played their first game in their final home just prior to the 1960 season. The field was finally a stadium. The move across campus constituted of disassembling “New” Beaver Field and transporting the pieces one mile across campus. Moving the pieces from the west to the east. After Beaver Stadium was reconstructed 16,000 seats were added. This brought the capacity up to 46,000. Still not even a dent in the current 107,000.
Many smaller renovations occurred throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Eventually the stadium hit 60,000 capacity in 1976 with the addition of the south end zone. At this time, Beaver Stadium still had a track around the outside of it. Much like you see at the high school level and some smaller colleges. The track was removed in the 1978 expansion and 16,000 more seats were added. Six years later lights were added in 1984. The addition of lights paved the way for the highly anticipated night games and White Outs that are held in Beaver Stadium each season.
A Century After “Old” Beaver Field
Nearly a century after “Old” Beaver Field was constructed and 500 people got to watch the Nittany Lions in person, the upper deck was added to the north end zone. This renovation also brought portable seats to the north end zone concourse. This large renovation bumped the total capacity just under 94,000. Over one hundred years later Beaver Stadium is not only the second largest college football stadium in the country, but is also larger than all NFL stadiums.
Reflecting On The evolution
I have always been in awe of Beaver Stadium. As I got older I still got excited walking into the large structure. Now at 26 years old, Beaver Stadium is one of my favorite places. When you tailgate around and walk into the home of the Nittany Lions at the Blue-White game this spring remember the evolution of Beaver Stadium. Think about how far this program has come in just a century’s time. From 500 people and a wooden structure, to giant replay screens and 107,000 strong.
Getting a sense of where the progress of the wide receiver corp is and watching the quarterbacks to see how Tommy Stevens is doing and if Sean Clifford is closing the gap is important. Remembering the roots and tradition that radiates from a place that we all think of as special could be the most important thought of the day.