Memorial Field Renovation
Since 2013, the State College Area School District has been carrying out a renovation project for Memorial Field, the district’s main outdoor athletic facility and a historic district landmark. After taking a seven-month hiatus to concentrate on advancing four school construction projects, the district is proceeding with the next phase of the renovations. The first phase occurred six years ago and included the renovations of the western visiting team bleachers along Fraser Street. A renovation project in 2003 installed artificial turf as well as repaired and replaced segments of the stone retaining wall in the south end zone. This project was supported by the SHFAST community group.
Approved by the SCASD Board of Directors on March 12, 2018, construction documents call for new home bleachers with additional seats and locker rooms beneath, improved restrooms and entrances, a concession plaza, a concourse linking the home and away sides, and better emergency access to the field. The project will include a memorial at the field to State High alumni who died while serving their country in the military, and different designs are being considered.
The concession plaza will be built on the site of the current Nittany Avenue Building. On May 8, 2017, the school board approved an option to demolish the former school and administrative building but retain its basement as part of the final phase.
At present, two construction timelines are under consideration. Each would start in April of 2019, but the durations differ. One calls for uninterrupted work while the field is closed until the project is completed in August 2020, and the other would open the field for the 2019 and 2020 fall seasons and finish in the summer of 2021. Also being discussed is a variant of the shorter timeline that would open the field for competition during October of 2019 only.
Construction bids were announced on Feb. 22, and the district presented a project update on March 18 to the Board of Directors.
Memorial Field Renovation FAQS:
Q: Why is the field being renovated?
A: The SCASD Board of Directors has committed to keeping and renovating Memorial Field. It’s the district’s main athletic stadium; it’s close to the new State High where space is unavailable; and there’s no affordable or convenient site for a new facility.
Q: What students currently use Memorial Field for practice or competition?
A: Football (varsity, junior varsity, ninth grade, middle school); Boys and Girls Soccer (varsity, junior varsity, MNMS, PFMS); Boys and Girls Lacrosse; Field Hockey; Marching Band, Cheerleading.
Q: How will this design benefit student-athletes?
A: Student-athletes will have complete, easily-accessible locker rooms and classroom spaces, rather than having to use the State High gym about a mile away or inadequate spaces nearby. Additionally, the design includes improved access to the field in the event of medical emergencies.
Q: How will this design benefit spectators?
A: Modern concession stands, an open spectator plaza, more restrooms, improved bleachers, a concourse for circulating around the field, and clearer sight lines to the field are included in the design.
Q: Could a new stadium be built at a different location?
A: The district neither owns a site nor has one readily available. Staying at Memorial Field is a significantly less costly option compared to a new site with land development, parking, restrooms, and locker rooms. Additionally, when the district decided to retain the high school on the Westerly Parkway campus, it made a commitment to keeping its stadium nearby at the field’s downtown site.
Q: Why wasn’t a new stadium built where the south track is located as part of the State High project?
A: The high school project does not provide enough parking for a stadium the size of Memorial Field (about 4,000 seats), so additional space would be necessary. But the campus, bordered by neighborhoods, a supermarket and Community Field, does not have a good option for more parking. Likewise, expanding the bleacher/spectator areas would infringe upon the current tennis courts and adjacent neighborhood. Also, the borough’s current lighting ordinance would not permit stadium-size lighting, though the district is seeking an allowance for smaller, limited-use lights for the south track.
Q: What is being renovated?
A: The second phase of the renovations will address areas that need improvement: the aging east bleachers and press box, inadequate locker room accomodations and public restrooms, and no concession facility. The west bleachers for visiting fans were renovated in 2013 and 2014. A 2003 renovation project installed artificial turf as well as repaired and replaced some of the stone retaining wall in the south end zone.
Q: What does this project include?
A: Plans call for locker rooms beneath new west bleachers, along with redesigned entrances, interior walkways linking the bleachers and a spectator plaza on the current site of the Nittany Avenue Building. The plaza will be built on top of the building’s basement, which will be converted into storage space and a classroom.
Q: What is the timeline for the project?
A: Bids are scheduled to be opened on Feb. 21, extending the original date by two days at the request of contractors, and awarded on March 18. Work is scheduled to start this April and last until February/March of 2021, with interruptions for the 2019 and 2020 fall seasons. The Board is considering an alternate option: an unbroken period from this April to August 2020 with the field not used for the 2019 fall season.
Q: Where will student-athletes practice and compete during the renovation?
A: During reconstruction work, teams will have to practice and compete at other district fields or community locations. Sites could vary depending on the sport. At present, various options are being considered. If the project follows the original timeline, teams would be able to use Memorial Field during the fall seasons of 2019 and 2020.
Q: Is the field and stadium ADA-compliant?
A: Not in its current state. The renovations will provide appropriate access, restroom facilities and parking for handicapped visitors.
Q: How much is the project estimated to cost?
A: The latest estimate is approximately $13.2 million, including soft costs such as for designs and construction management.
Q: What were the first phase costs?
A: The 2013 west bleacher renovations, including a brick sidewalk along Fraser Street, cost approximately $2.3 million. Phase II renovations, while completing the project, will not redo any previous work.
Q: What will happen to the Nittany Avenue Building?
A: The former school and district administrative office building will be demolished and replaced with a new Nittany Avenue entrance and open spectator plaza that will sit on top of the existing basement. The renovated basement space will be used for storage and a classroom. State College Borough declined the district’s offer to take ownership of the building and move it.
Q: Doesn’t Memorial Field flood when it rains?
A: Although the field sits at a low point in the neighborhood, it does not flood every time it rains. During heavy and prolonged rainfall, water has risen to the field level, but afterward, it takes about 30 minutes to drain and return the field to playing condition. Draining improved significantly in 2015 after the district and the borough upgraded the housing containing a natural sinkhole at the site.Though the field does still hold water during an extreme rainfall, it drains significantly faster than in the past due to the updated drainage system, usually within an hour as the system was designed to function.
Q: Because of the flooding, does the turf have to be replaced more often causing unnecessary expenses to the district?
A: No. The current surface was installed in 2013. The prior synthetic surface was installed in 2003 and had a lifetime consistent with our other synthetic field at the high school south track. In fact, ultraviolet rays play the major role in causing a breakdown over time.
Q: The stadium was closed a couple of years ago because of a sinkhole. What has been done since then to fix the sinkhole issue?
A: Prior to the 2013 updates to the Fraser Street side of the stadium, the site was professionally evaluated by engineers. This included geotechnical surveys and drillings to ensure that the site is safe for this complex. After the closure, an experienced borough team that has successfully remediated sinkholes in the area cleaned and reinforced the sinkhole access point for efficient drainage. A electrical imaging survey (a subsurface electronic analysis through a radar-like mechanism) also was done.
Q: What parking is available near the field?
A: A large municipal parking deck across Fraser Street from the field and another parking garage on the next block collectively provide 872 spaces. In addition to neighborhood street parking, 95 spaces are available in two municipal lots nearby. A few blocks away are 491 spaces in the Pugh Street garage.
Q: How will renovating the stadium help with the safety of our students?
A: The safety of our student-athletes will be improved as there will be a secure locker room, on- site training room, and limited field access by spectators. In addition, the design includes other features for improving student-athlete safety, such as a training room, a emergency vehicle ramp access to the field, and handicap access to the bleachers and field. We will continue to monitor and improve student safety as we provide a more fan-friendly concourse and food court.
Q: What locker rooms are currently used by student-athletes?
A: We do not have locker rooms at Memorial Field or inside the Fairmount Building. Currently, most teams do not utilize locker rooms when playing at the field. For larger competitions, teams use large spaces within the Fairmount Building during competitions but afterward get bused back to the State High North Building to use locker rooms.
Q: Does the project include renovating the Fairmount Building?
A: No. At this time, the Delta Program will utilize the Fairmount Building through the 2018-2019 school year. Delta then will transition to its new facility along Westerly Parkway (north side of State High campus). To date, the district has not finalized plans for the use of the Fairmount Building.
Q: Does the district have funding in its capital financing plan for the renovations at Memorial Field?
A: Yes, the current capital financing plan provides up to $8 million of resources for Memorial Field. Private donations will allow the district to fund additional facility projects in a more timely and respectful manner. Capital projects at the athletic facilities have lagged behind completing the high school and elementary schools.
Q: What would contributions provide?
A: Naming opportunities exist for alumni, parents, staff and coaches (current and former), and families. Donations also could help support other district facilities, such as replacing the high school South Track artificial surface, adding an artificial surface to the new field on the high school north campus, and building a middle school track facility. For more information on making a donation, visit our Education Foundation website.