Beaver Stadium sits in the shadows of Mt. Nittany in University Park, PA, also known as Happy Valley. With a capacity of 106,572, Beaver Stadium is the second largest college football stadium in the Western Hemisphere.
The stadium was built in 1960 when the University relocated Beaver Field from the middle of campus to the edge. Some components of the stadium date back to 1909. A large number of the seats are from the old Beaver Field when the wooden bleachers were replaced with steel in 1936. The rural setting of the stadium and its unique design -- often referred to as erector-set-like -- is what makes Beaver Stadium unlike any other that you will visit.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Unlike most stadiums these days, the concession stands are run by student organizations and local youth groups who receive a portion of their sales to help pay for trips and events. While this is a great idea to help the community, it leads to less knowledgeable staff and slower service.
Food is generic brands and bland quality with no signature item. In fact, the one name brand food product (Berk's hot dogs) were recently replaced with a cheaper, much worse quality product. The menu consists of hot dogs ($4), hamburgers ($5), cheesesteak ($6), and sausage with peppers and onions ($6).
Have a sweet tooth or want something smaller? Penn State offers popcorn $3, nachos and cheese ($4), and soft pretzels ($3). Meanwhile, drinks are terribly overpriced. Soda comes in 20oz bottles ($4), 24oz cups ($4), and car mugs ($6). Bottled water is also available in a 20oz size ($4), and 12oz cups of coffee and hot chocolate can be found at some stands ($3).
That's it, and it will take you 10-15 minutes to get through the line due to a lack of concession facilities and the staffing situation. According to the game day website gopsugd.com - which is only accessible inside the stadium when on the AT&T Wi-Fi - there is supposed to be online ordering available, but it has never worked in two years.
Overall, grabbing a bite to eat or a drink inside the stadium is something you probably want to avoid. Thankfully, the tailgating scene is so good, you shouldn't need to eat while in the stadium.
The atmosphere is by far the hardest component to judge at Beaver Stadium. It can really vary depending on the game you attend. Games against FCS and lesser known FBS teams seem to bring a very stale environment, particularly for noon games. The student section, which in years past often did not reach capacity for these games until into the 2nd quarter, if at all while the alumni seats filled more consistently. However, with all that has happened at Penn State since the Sandusky scandal, the students now show up much more regularly to support their fellow students. Meanwhile, the alumni have been really turned off by the University administration, resulting in very few sold out games and a reduction in the overall stadium atmosphere.
With that said, games such as homecoming, or 8pm kickoffs and full stadium "Whiteout" games are out of this world. Trust me, I've been to over 50 FBS college football stadiums for games and nothing beats a sellout at Beaver Stadium.
The town itself will draw over 200,000 people for the big games with tailgating starting at 8am and lasting right up until kickoff. Strangers offer food to those tailgating around them, sharing stories and Yuengling Lager with both the Penn State and visiting team fans. The student section fills early and it often gets over 100 decibels throughout the game. The students lead the "We Are....Penn State" chant and conduct a series of "waves" starting out with a normal around the stadium wave, followed by a series of really fast ones and then finishing with a super slow wave that takes minutes to make its way around the stadium just once.
The overall attitude toward visiting fans is fairly friendly, although you are sure to get some verbal assaults.
Tailgating is phenomenal, some of the best in the country. There is nothing but tents, grills, food and beer in every direction; something that every college football fan should experience.
The stadium itself is located on the edge of campus. The south and west sides of the stadium are surrounded by Penn State's other sports complexes while the north and east sides are vast farm lands used for the agricultural school at the University. These farm fields turn into tens of thousands of tailgate parties on game day.
For an absolutely beautiful experience and view, take a hike up Mount Nittany and look down over State College and Beaver Stadium itself. If you enjoy fishing, Fisherman's Paradise, a world renowned trout area is less than 10-miles from the stadium as well.
Downtown State College starts about a half mile from the stadium and contains a wide variety of bars, restaurants and shops. Unlike campuses located in more urban areas, the University and the town are separated by the main road, College Avenue. This makes it very easy to know where you are and find what you are looking for.
If eating downtown, come say hello at the restaurant owned by my wife and me, The Fraser Street Deli. We offer over 100 sandwiches named after Penn State athletes, coaches and distinguished professors, specializing in breakfast burritos, Reubens and Panini.
If you want to grab a beer, be prepared to wait in line as bars are always filled beyond capacity on game weekends. The best place to get a variety of drinks downtown is Zeno's, which is located at the corner of College and Allen Streets. If you are willing to travel outside of town, Otto's Pub & Brewery is located about five miles from the stadium on North Atherton. The Apricot beer they serve is amazing. A stop at the University Creamery or the Waffle Shop is also strongly recommended.
I would love to rate the fans as five-stars, but their attendance is just too fickle.
The 23,500-seat student section is amazing, with a group of students called "Nittanyville" camping out for days before each game. A series of rules by the group allows students to leave line to attend class throughout the week, but requires each person to sleep in their tent each night or they lose their spot in line. The officially recognized club started in 2005 for the Ohio State game, although informal groups (including me) camped out for games years before.
The rest of the stadium is filled by Penn State fans and alumni. The crowd in this section has really changed since 2011. They can be the best in the country, or they can be sparse and quiet depending on the opponent. Unfortunately, the schedule has featured very few marquee games, so sparse crowds have become more common.
The schedule isn't the only reason for the decrease in attendance. In the past two years, the University has gone through major NCAA sanctions related to the Jerry Sandusky fallout, an unpopular change in athletic administration, their first coaching change since 1966, an increase in seat donation fees, increased parking fees, single-game ticket restrictions and a new no-bag policy. All of which have alienated fans at a time when college football attendance is down in general.
Parking is basically endless, but it can take a long time to finally make it through traffic and into your parking spot. For some reason, the Interstate that was recently built right by the stadium only has single lane off-ramps and the University restricts turning lanes, severely hampering traffic movement. It is very inefficient compared to other college stadiums.
The parking directly around the stadium requires prepaid passes tied to your giving level to the athletic fund. The normal parking lots are $10 if you pre-buy your pass, but are an insane $40 if you just drive up the day of the game. No lot is further than a 15 or 20 minute walk from the stadium and handicap lots are available with a tram that takes you right to the stadium. If you want to avoid the parking fees and traffic, there are 2 free shopping plaza lots a few miles away from the stadium with shuttles available for $3 each way per person. The drawback to the shuttle is that the line is often a 45 minute wait or longer after the game as the transportation system they use for the shuttle is very inefficient.
Once you are done tailgating and want to head to the stadium, do not bring a bag or purse. The only bags allowed are one-gallon clear Ziploc bags so hopefully you don't need anything too personal. This makes it nearly impossible to bring a young child. You need to plan accordingly.
Once inside the stadium, finding your section can take a little bit of time because things are not as well marked as they could be. Lower sections can be accessed from ground level or the middle level of the stadium, while the upper east and west sections can only be accessed off of the middle concourse. The north and south end zone additions require you to go up an additional set of ramps. There is only one set of escalators in the stadium and once you get to the middle concourse, they are restricted to Club ticket holders. Handicapped access to some levels requires a ride in a golf cart because of a lack of elevators.
Some of the bathrooms look like they haven't been updated since they were built in 1960, while others are only a few years old when installed during the newest expansion. Lines during peak times can get to 100-plus people long so try to avoid the restrooms during halftime.
While there really isn't any seat that is bad, some can become limited view as people continually go up and down to access the rest rooms and concession stands. Unless you need to get up frequently, try to avoid aisle seats on the east and west sides of the stadium.
Most tickets are $55 face value and can usually be found for far less from street scalpers for the lesser games. Big games such as Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska will often cost $150-$200 per ticket. Part of the reason is due to lack of ticket sales as the University now requires you to purchase tickets to two separate games when you try to purchase single-game tickets for the more popular matchups. For example, in 2013 if you wanted to buy a single-game ticket to the Michigan game, you also had to buy a ticket for the Kent State game. A very fan-unfriendly policy.
The real drawback to season tickets is the required donation per seat for the right to buy the tickets. End zone seats cost $100 per seat per year, while sideline seats are $400 or $600 per seat per year based on proximity to the 50 yard line. You can actually save money by foregoing season tickets and buying tickets outside the stadium for each game, even if you have to pay $200 a ticket for the bigger games because of the seat fees and low resale value for most matchups.
There is supposed to be Wi-Fi throughout the stadium since cell service is constantly clogged and basically useless. However, the Wi-Fi is slow and spotty at best, and it affects the ability to report issues to the fan helpline.
Since tailgating is so popular at Penn State, there are a few companies that will setup full tailgate parties for you including RV's with sleeping arrangements, food and other amenities. One such site is GoPSURV.com although there are a few options.
The All-Sports Museum is closed on game days, but has good Sunday hours and well worth a stop if you want to check out all sorts of Penn State sports history. The museum is located at the club entrance of the stadium, near Gate B.
A point for the band, which is consistently rated as one of the best in the country. The pre-game and half time shows are always amazing, and while they are allotted less time to play during games than in the past, they still play with passion and are the basis for much of the in-game atmosphere.
An extra point for the finest grass field in the country. The turf management major at Penn State is top rated and it really shows, especially on rainy days as the field never gets major divots like your average grass field.
One final extra point for the ushers, who are always helpful. Just ask a question and they will get you a prompt answer, which isn't always the case at many stadiums.
While the experience at Beaver Stadium can be the best in the nation, I recommend you check the schedule and come for the full-stadium whiteout game. Be sure to eat plenty at your tailgate and enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, other games may leave you disappointed.
Beaver Stadium sits in the shadows of Mt. Nittany in University Park, PA, also known as Happy Valley. With a capacity of 107,282, Beaver Stadium is the 2nd largest college football stadium in the country.
The stadium was built in 1960 when the University relocated Beaver Field from the middle to the edge of campus. A large number of the seats are from the old Beaver Field when the wooden bleachers were replaced with steel in 1936. The rural setting of the stadium and its unique design - often referred to as erector-set-like - is what makes Beaver Stadium unlike any other that you will visit.
Been to about 10 games at Beaver Stadium so far. If the weather is nice, you have several square miles of tailgating on the fields that surround the stadium. If the weather is poor, you have several square miles of tailgating the snow or mud. Either way, the crowds are huge and fun and knowledgeable and LOUD. The student section is wild. Avoid it if you'd like to be able to hear any time during the next few weeks. The stadium and field are amazing but it is the overall experience is makes it worth the trip and ticket prices. I gave the food an average rating only because, I've never eaten any food from inside the stadium. All food eating is done outside. State College is a great little town with lots of good places to eat and drink.
Everyone should experience a white house at night once in their lifetime.
I've been a Penn State season ticket holder for 20 years,and there is a new energy in Beaver Stadium since Bill O'Brien became head coach! Bill will win a National Championship at Penn State (unless an NFL team steals him away)
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