First look at Penn State's $10.2 million new stadium, Nittany Lion Softball Park - Photo Courtesy of PSU Athletic Communications
Now before you read the title of this post, roll your eyes and check out, hear me out for a minute. While football and basketball (and to a lesser degree wrestling and volleyball) grab the headlines, and rightfully so, Penn State softball is entering a new era for the program. On Thursday, March 24 PSU softball opens up their brand new stadium, Nittany Lion Softball Park against Buffalo. The $10.2 million Park has been years in the making and is a great edition to Penn State's stable of facilities (PSU Athletic Communications provided the photo for this article). Penn State softball has been getting prospects and signees excited about a new stadium as far back as 2001.
To be competitive in collegiate softball, a sport dominated by the Pac 10's Arizona Wildcats and UCLA Bruins, you need to have facilities to attract the top California talent. Penn State will never be able to replicate the California weather, but they will be able to stand toe to toe with any program in the country with their new 1,084 seat stadium. In the Big 10, Michigan's stadium, Alumni Field (part of the Wilpon Baseball and Softball Complex), was the class of the Big 10 until Penn State came along and built a state of the art facility.
Beard Field, named for Lee and William Beard (they donated $500,000) gives the softball team a home to be proud of. It also allows the team, for the first time in school history, the ability to charge admission to the games (Free to students with ID, $5 for fans). Penn State can also earn additional revenue by hosting NCAA Regionals, something they weren't able to do before due to the lack of facilities. You see, before Penn State was graced with this amazing facility, they were stuck playing on field that most high school teams would laugh at. Seriously, the "stadium" had metal bleachers for an overall capacity of 500. Most students found it easier to drink Boone's Farm in right field and cheer the girls on. For years, the biggest cheering section for PSU softball came from the Penn State men's rugby team, but I assume they may have been more interested in the off the field exploits of the players than the on the field ones. Now? Well now players can step up to the plate and have a view of Beaver Stadium - pretty awesome if you ask me. And fans can enjoy a fast paced game in one of the, if not the best stadiums in the country.
We saw first hand what happens when you invest into your non-revenue generating programs. Cael Sanderson took over the wrestling program last season and in two years Penn State has their first Big 10 title and first team National Championship since the 1950's. I'm not saying head coach Robin Petrini is going to take this team to the World Series next season, but the stadium is a stepping stone for the program, a giant feather in her cap. To win big in softball you need to have facilities and an ace pitcher. Penn State has the facilities and now they have the ability to attract the top talent in the nation.
Penn State is currently 13-11 on the season and begins Big 10 play this Saturday against Wisconsin. Head out to Beard Field to checkout the girls in action tomorrow or this weekend.