The Penn State softball team held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for its new facility that is expected to be ready for play at the start of next season.
The $10.2 million state-of-the-art stadium will be called Beard Field in honor of a donation by William and Lee Beard, who were among more than 100 people in attendance for the ceremony. The groundbreaking took place next to the current field and the site of the construction for the new stadium, which began March 28.
"This is a very happy day for the Penn State softball family and one that could not get here soon enough," Penn State athletic director Tim Curley said. "The softball family finally will have a real home to call its own. Today's groundbreaking starts a new era for Penn State softball history. While the wait has been long --36 years -- the end result is going to be outstanding."
Beard Field, which Curley said will be one of the finest softball facilities in the country, will seat about 1,100 spectators and will include a new team clubhouse, home and visiting team, locker rooms, a full concourse of concessions, permanent restrooms and other state-of-the-art amenities.
The new facility will also allow Penn State to host NCAA Tournament games and PIAA championships.
"Our team deserves no less than a first-rate facility," Penn State President Graham Spanier said. "They are exceptional athletes."
Penn State coach Robin Petrini, who has taken the Lions to seven NCAA tournaments, said she began talking to Curley about the possibility of a new stadium about eight years ago.
Curley said the importance of a new facility became more important each year as other universities built new stadiums, but added projects of this size take time to come to fruition and he is just happy it is finally happening.
Petrini, who will be in her 15th year as head coach when the field opens, said it has been a long time coming.
"To say that myself, my staff, the athletes who are currently in the program that we are beyond excited would be an understatement," Petrini said.
The Lions will play their final home series at Nittany Lion Field starting Saturday at 2 p.m. against Ohio State, but sophomore Danee Collett can't help but be anxious to play in the new stadium.
"I just can't wait for next March when we get to actually play our first game in it," she said.