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OT - Happy Valley thoughts

Made my first trip to Happy Valley in a couple of years this past weekend, and 10 hours in the car gave me time for some thoughts. Your gain.

The place continues to grow. Unfettered capitalism at its tackiest. As Steve Jobs once said of extremely successful Microsoft, “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste”. I challenge anyone to find five buildings in the borough appropriately proportioned, properly positioned within space, built with quality building materials and attention to craftsmanship. The whole place is like some virus strip mall. It grew before anyone with any sense of zoning or planning had a chance to see what the effects would be. It reminds me of the entrepreneurial spirt of the Jersey Shore - nothing built to last. Just easy money. The campus is slightly better, but a lot of the new construction suffers from a patina of “low-bid” public “architecture.”

One thing is clear - the kids have more money than we had. There are far more ways to capture discretionary money than when I was there.

The football program has really fallen. I’m sure the joint will be jumping Saturday. But here’s what this past weekend was like:

[ul][li]Checked online for hotel availability Thursday. Rooms available by the score for the season opener. Not a year before the game – two days before the game.[/li]
[li]No noticeable RV or fan traffic in the spot it usually starts to become an obvious caravan Friday nights - the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area.[/li]
[li]No Big Ten Network in my hotel. I don’t know why this struck me the way it did, but I was at Ground Zero for God’s sake.[/li]
[li]You could have swung a dead cat in the bar at The Tavern Friday night and you might not have hit anyone.[/li]
[li]Lots of empty Fat Cat parking spaces.[/li]
[li]Easily the smallest crowd I have ever seen at Beaver Stadium, save for some early 80s Blue-White games. I would not be surprised if the actual count was 65,000. It looked like a Pitt-Syracuse game. It was soul-sappingly hot and humid, and it made me recall the awful 1983 Cincinnati game, a 14-3 loss in a sweltering Beaver Stadium, packed shoulder to shoulder. In weather like that, half-full is better.[/li][/ul]

It’s difficult for someone who latched on to Penn State in the 70s and 80s imagining the lack of excitement for a new season.

Lots of good news, too: The students were great, showed up in higher proportion than the season ticket holders, by eyeball estimation. Lar, Cappy, Mrs. Cappy and BA looked happy and very healthy, and it was a real joy to reconnect with them.

I hobbled in too late to catch the Basketball tailgate, so I don’t have any $0.02 impressions to convey there. But I am excited about our long-term prospects.

As for football, the program could use some kind of system shock, like Paterno applied after the losing seasons (which, of course, in themselves were probably the shock to the core).

I’m reminded of summer visits to ski resorts, when the lack of a snow covering and a happy mob makes them look shabby, cheap and sad (try visiting one sometime). State College looks a thousand percent better with a happy mob overruning it.

Not to give a misimpression - I had a great time. It’s just that the negatives were striking.

I think the biggest problem with hotels is the outrageous prices they charge. Home weekend prices have always been significantly more expensive than a random weekend, but it seems the past 5-8 years they’ve really skyrocketed. I think more folks are simply staying out of town or making daytrips to games.

As of last week, you could still get a room for Bama…granted, you’d be paying $500-$800 per night.

Thanks tjb…good post.

I think it’s the credit cards that most kids use for spending. Heck, I never had a checking account in my PSU years!

[quote=“Tom, post:2, topic:2646”]I think the biggest problem with hotels is the outrageous prices they charge. Home weekend prices have always been significantly more expensive than a random weekend, but it seems the past 5-8 years they’ve really skyrocketed. I think more folks are simply staying out of town or making daytrips to games.

As of last week, you could still get a room for Bama…granted, you’d be paying $500-$800 per night.[/quote]

You could have had your pick for under $200/night last weekend. High, but not outrageous.

In more positive news, an idea just popped into my head about the malfunctioning ticker, and it turned out to be the problem. So we now have a ticker on every page.

Phew!

For rooms…and the crowd at the games…is it the proverbial golden goose?

The STEP porgram turned some people off. A friend of mine who had club box season tickets for about ten years dropped his season tickets becuase of the increased comtributions of STEP, and he told me a few people he know dropped thier tickets.

There is a tiiping point, especially if we go in the downhill mode again.

I’m a day tripper to the games. A pretty lond day for ma. The oly time a stsyed overnight was the 2077 Notre Dame game, where we lucked out and got a two night reom i Willamsport for about 140 per night.

Collegian said something like 7-10 percent non-renewal post step.

[quote=“tjb, post:1, topic:2646”]Made my first trip to Happy Valley in a couple of years this past weekend, and 10 hours in the car gave me time for some thoughts. Your gain.

The place continues to grow. Unfettered capitalism at its tackiest. As Steve Jobs once said of extremely successful Microsoft, “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste”. I challenge anyone to find five buildings in the borough appropriately proportioned, properly positioned within space, built with quality building materials and attention to craftsmanship. The whole place is like some virus strip mall. It grew before anyone with any sense of zoning or planning had a chance to see what the effects would be. It reminds me of the entrepreneurial spirt of the Jersey Shore - nothing built to last. Just easy money. The campus is slightly better, but a lot of the new construction suffers from a patina of “low-bid” public “architecture.”

One thing is clear - the kids have more money than we had. There are far more ways to capture discretionary money than when I was there.

The football program has really fallen. I’m sure the joint will be jumping Saturday. But here’s what this past weekend was like:

[ul][li]Checked online for hotel availability Thursday. Rooms available by the score for the season opener. Not a year before the game – two days before the game.[/li]
[li]No noticeable RV or fan traffic in the spot it usually starts to become an obvious caravan Friday nights - the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area.[/li]
[li]No Big Ten Network in my hotel. I don’t know why this struck me the way it did, but I was at Ground Zero for God’s sake.[/li]
[li]You could have swung a dead cat in the bar at The Tavern Friday night and you might not have hit anyone.[/li]
[li]Lots of empty Fat Cat parking spaces.[/li]
[li]Easily the smallest crowd I have ever seen at Beaver Stadium, save for some early 80s Blue-White games. I would not be surprised if the actual count was 65,000. It looked like a Pitt-Syracuse game. It was soul-sappingly hot and humid, and it made me recall the awful 1983 Cincinnati game, a 14-3 loss in a sweltering Beaver Stadium, packed shoulder to shoulder. In weather like that, half-full is better.[/li][/ul]

It’s difficult for someone who latched on to Penn State in the 70s and 80s imagining the lack of excitement for a new season.

Lots of good news, too: The students were great, showed up in higher proportion than the season ticket holders, by eyeball estimation. Lar, Cappy, Mrs. Cappy and BA looked happy and very healthy, and it was a real joy to reconnect with them.

I hobbled in too late to catch the Basketball tailgate, so I don’t have any $0.02 impressions to convey there. But I am excited about our long-term prospects.

As for football, the program could use some kind of system shock, like Paterno applied after the losing seasons (which, of course, in themselves were probably the shock to the core).

I’m reminded of summer visits to ski resorts, when the lack of a snow covering and a happy mob makes them look shabby, cheap and sad (try visiting one sometime). State College looks a thousand percent better with a happy mob overruning it.

Not to give a misimpression - I had a great time. It’s just that the negatives were striking.[/quote]

Agree with almost everything. I think the tackiness of the appearance in the area’s growth has a lot to do with the fact that there aren’t very many big employers in State College besides the university. Some of the nicest college towns, like Boulder, CO, also have a large # of professionals that are not associated with the university. State College would benefit from some better planning. And some classier establishments in the prime locations. The Hooters as you enter town on College Ave has been an eyesore for a long time now. I think making one of the streets between Beaver and College pedestrian-only could add a lot to the downtown. They’ll never do anything like this, though. I think a very small number of people control businesses in downtown State College, and none of them are particularly creative or have long term visions. I disagree that the campus looks cheap - I think the architecture would be nice if it all had a common theme, but there are far uglier campuses than Penn State.

What can you say about the football program? The scheduling is questionable. In 1999 and 2000 the opening games were Arizona and USC. It has only been within the last decade that we started adding schools like Youngstown State and Indiana State. I think they are playing with fire. A string of so-so seasons combined with new ticket pricing and lots of bad home games (last year was particularly bad) could devastate attendance. Paterno is transparently hanging on for the benefit of his son, and lots of people are completely losing interest. 2005 and 2008 seem like ages ago. I feel like they are slipping back into the 2003-2004 danger zone. They also over-marketed the gameday atmosphere (the “white-out” etc). It was really fun and then it became really old.

If Paterno is still hanging on in 4 years and Chambers has brought some real excitement to basketball - maybe the unthinkable could happen and the campus will actually be buzzing for basketball games.

[quote=“psuarva, post:8, topic:2646”]I disagree that the campus looks cheap - I think the architecture would be nice if it all had a common theme, but there are far uglier campuses than Penn State.

… Paterno is transparently hanging on for the benefit of his son, and lots of people are completely losing interest. 2005 and 2008 seem like ages ago. I feel like they are slipping back into the 2003-2004 danger zone. [/quote]

I don’t mean to overstate my remarks about the campus. It was gorgeous. Just that some of the stuff looks a little less-than landmark quality construction. Surely orders of magnitude better than anything downtown.

I have always had a different hunch - that Jay was here for the benefit of his dad. To keep an eye on him. Joe just can’t give it up, it means too much to him.

Which, in a way, makes sense. STEP’s goal, among other things, was to weed out those who were grandfathered into great seats at no annual cost. From a purely financial perspective, STEP has been a brilliant success already.

My personal belief is that the shift with STEP is primarily geared towards the next generation of big money donors for the post-Joe era. Problem is, Joe’s still there, and that next generation isn’t quite ready to commit the money yet.

Seven percent: http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archive/2011/09/02/STEP_frees_up_tickets.aspx

[quote="tjb, post:7, topic:2646"]Collegian said something like 7-10 percent non-renewal post step.[/quote]

Which, in a way, makes sense. STEP’s goal, among other things, was to weed out those who were grandfathered into great seats at no annual cost. From a purely financial perspective, STEP has been a brilliant success already.

My personal belief is that the shift with STEP is primarily geared towards the next generation of big money donors for the post-Joe era. Problem is, Joe’s still there, and that next generation isn’t quite ready to commit the money yet.

STEP has been a financial success, and so it is a successful program. But it could probably do even better. The school wants 7 home games and they seem to take the easy path to get there. They need to get more creative. If a school wants a return trip for a home game - try getting them to push it off for 7 or 8 years so you can stay at 7 for the next several seasons. Maybe set it up so you can accept 6 home games (gasp) 1 out of every 5 years. Something, anything, to avoid these snore-fests against Indiana State and Eastern Michigan. Finding any school from a BCS conference or the MWC or BYU (they are independent now I think) would generate tons more interest, the stadium would be full with actual people, and the university and town benefit the most that they can. It also benefits the team - in 2005 the South Florida game ended up helping in the BCS standings, because they were better than expected. Same with Oregon State in 2008. It’s not like PSU is the only school doing it, but I find it to be a questionable strategy. Especially when we no longer enjoy top 10 preseason rankings.

If anyone looked very healthy, it was you. We all know that I rarely rely on my eyeballs but this time I’ll trust them. Given what you’ve gone through over the last 18 months, you looked incredibly good. I can comfortably report to all here that, minus a few minor lingering effects, you’ve pretty much got this GBS thing licked.

[quote="tjb, post:1, topic:2646"]Lar, Cappy, Mrs. Cappy and BA looked happy and very healthy, and it was a real joy to reconnect with them.[/quote]

If anyone looked very healthy, it was you. We all know that I rarely rely on my eyeballs but this time I’ll trust them. Given what you’ve gone through over the last 18 months, you looked incredibly good. I can comfortably report to all here that, minus a few minor lingering effects, you’ve pretty much got this GBS thing licked.

With the help of some pretty pricey carbon fiber, I agree!

[quote="tjb, post:1, topic:2646"]Lar, Cappy, Mrs. Cappy and BA looked happy and very healthy, and it was a real joy to reconnect with them.[/quote]

If anyone looked very healthy, it was you. We all know that I rarely rely on my eyeballs but this time I’ll trust them. Given what you’ve gone through over the last 18 months, you looked incredibly good. I can comfortably report to all here that, minus a few minor lingering effects, you’ve pretty much got this GBS thing licked.

With the help of some pretty pricey carbon fiber, I agree!

Seems to work pretty well for Oscar Pistorius too.

Town was noticeably quiet for a 3-day, opening game weekend. I was out Thursday night and it was a ghost town, so I had a feeling it wasn’t going to get much better.

To me it’s a combination of everything people are mentioning. Listening to the local radio stations this past week, seems like even the most optimistic predictions for this season were 8-9 wins. Just a lot of apathy in general about the program, and there’s nobody else to blame but Joe and his merry men.

Not sure I completely understand your critiques of the buildings in State College. You either keep the old buildings and continue re-doing them to protect the “charm” of the area, or you tear it all down and rebuild it and piss off the other people. There’s no winning there really. I don’t think it looks anywhere near as bad as you claim, but maybe I’m just numb to it having lived here all my life.

Tim,
Have to take exception with the comments about the campus architecture, and working for OPP has nothing to do with my opinion ;D. Seriously though, you are wrong on your characterization. The University does not use low bid to design buildings. In fact, the University has hired award winning architects for many of its recent construction projects. Both IST and MSC, the bookends of Pollock Road are designed by world famous architect Rafeal Vinoly http://www.rvapc.com/ . Katz Building was designed by Ennead Associates. It is not my favorite building, but it has won a ton of awards http://law.psu.edu/news/katz_building_wins_accolades. There are other examples to. Probably more noticeable is the campus landscape. From the Arboretum to the Alumni Center Grounds, the campus landscape improvements are quite noticeable. Some of my favorite places are the Gateway to the Sciences, a.k.a the Shortlidge Mall, the Hintz Alumni Gardens, and the newest addition, the Millennium Science Complex shade garden. And now to toot my own horn, last year we won the prestigious Professional Grounds Management Society Grand Award for Campus landscapes http://www.pgms.org/2010GreenstarWinners.htm

I feel bad … I am not sure I would have said what I said to Rafael Vinoly’s mom in The Tavern. I was reacting almost completely to what looked like some slapped-on brick facades at the ground level. Certainly the buildings themselves are not cookie cutter - quite striking.

And there is no comparison to what has gone on downtown. The campus is beautiful.

[quote=“tjb, post:18, topic:2646”]I feel bad … I am not sure I would have said what I said to Rafael Vinoly’s mom in The Tavern. I was reacting almost completely to what looked like some slapped-on brick facades at the ground level. Certainly the buildings themselves are not cookie cutter - quite striking.

And there is no comparison to what has gone on downtown. The campus is beautiful.[/quote]

And I also was thinking - compared to the ugly Hammond Building and some of the other 1960s-era buildings - the 1990s-present additions really look great. In addition to those mentioned (law, ist, etc), engineering and earth sciences, industrial engineering, chemistry, thomas building, the newer Eastview terrace dorms. None of these are ugly and all look like upgrades over the previous homes for these departments. The surrounding state college area, I agree, has some parts that aren’t laid out very nicely. Mainly I am thinking of North Atherton around Vairo Blvd and towards I-99. But almost every town has strip mall-type areas like this.

Turned on the Penn State Football Story’s “Welcome Back” show today, and let’s just say the writers suffered none of my mixed opinions about the return of football season.

Before the over-the-top narration started, the opening montage was great, including a nice shot of Coach Chambers.