UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WTAJ) – With renovations coming to Beaver Stadium in the next few years, expansion represents a common theme in the history of all four venues Penn State played in for football.
The Nittany Lions began their days playing on the lawn in front of Old Main from 1887 to 1890.
“(It was) kind of a silly place to play any kind of a sporting event since it’s sloped at a very awkward angle,” Penn State All-Sports Museum Director Lew Lazarow said. “It worked out well enough, I suppose for the very beginning of it and looked at the situation and said we probably should do better than this.”
Penn State would ultimately find a new home thanks in part to former Governor James Beaver, who pleaded to the state government for a few thousand dollars to help create Old Beaver Field.
“Had it not been for that, we would not have been able to create our first athletic field,” Lazarow said.
The stands at Old Beaver Field held approximately 500 people, a far stretch from today’s standing room capacity of more than 110,000 people in Beaver Stadium. Due to Old Beaver Field’s limited attendance size, Penn State couldn’t attract many teams to Happy Valley.
“Penn, for example, would never come here. We were always traveling to Philadelphia in order to play them,” Lazarow said. “The larger the stadium, the bigger the complex, the more likely it was that visiting teams were going to be able to come and play here.”
To try and host more teams for revenue, the Nittany Lions would leave behind Old Beaver Field after just 15 years and build New Beaver Field. After opening in 1909, Penn State would play at its new home for 50 years.
Before moving into Beaver Stadium in 1960, the bleachers and press box from New Beaver Field would make their way into Penn State football’s new stadium and still remain there today.
“They assembled (the steel bleachers) into 700 separate pieces, put it on trucks and carted it the mile and a half across campus to the spot where Beaver Stadium now stands and reconstructed it there,” Lazarow said.
“The center section of the press box was constructed and installed (in New Beaver Field) in the late 1940s,” Lazarow added. “At that point, it was probably one of the most state-of-the-art press boxes in the entire country.”
Not everyone was happy about Beaver Stadium moving away from campus, especially then-assistant coach Joe Paterno.
“Joe was livid about the idea,” Lazarow said. “Joe actually declared that no one would ever come to a Penn State football game ever again.”
Little did Paterno know at the time that Penn State would continually expand and pack some of the biggest crowds of all time for college football.
“He did admit that (that he was wrong) some years later,” Lazarow said. “They asked him about it and he was like, ‘Yeah, it turns out everything worked out just fine.'”