UNIVERSITY PARK (Nittany Nation) — It’s a foggy morning in State College. Beaver Stadium is nearly empty, except for Chris Spotts.
Spotts has a job almost nobody notices, but everyone sees. This year he began mowing the field at Beaver Stadium.
“I think the pressure I put on myself just to make sure that I’m holding the standard that all my predecessors did,” Spotts said.
Spotts is a groundkeeper at Beaver Stadium and his job is seen by millions every Saturday.
“If you’re the guy painting a straight line or you’re the guy painting a number, you see all the little imperfections,” Spotts said. “From from halfway up the stands, it’s invisible, we try to strive for perfection.”
Few people understand the importance of “perfection” like Andrew McNitt.
“There’s nothing but worry that something’s going to go wrong,” he said. “But happiness and relief when things go well.”
McNitt, who recently retired as a professor from Penn State, has spent the last 20-years as a consultant for the NFL.
“In 2011, the league put together a committee to review field quality and safety, and I helped to coauthor what is called the Mandatory Practices for the NFL Synthetic and Natural Grass Turf Fields,” McNitt said.
McNitt spent 40-years with the university in various roles and said the program has grown immensely. Penn State had the first Turfgrass bachelor program, and it’s become one of the biggest in the nation.
McNitt said the golf boom in the 90’s ignited the growth and today many of the program’s alumni care for some of the most prestigious fields in the nation like Lincoln Financial Field, Lambeau Field and Allegiant Stadium.
“We can hang our hat on a number of things,” McNitt said. “Augusta National, where the Masters is held, has been run by a Penn State alum, three of them in a row since 1983 until today.”
Of course, no field is more important to the program than Beaver Stadium. While McNitt describes the university’s role as “IT,” he recognizes he educated many of those now in charge, like George Peters.
“I never would have in my wildest dreams told you that I’d be back here managing turf at Penn State,” Peters said.
Peters is the Assistant AD for Grounds Operations and oversees both Beaver Stadium and the University’s golf courses. He said one thing he really takes pride in is the challenge of maintaining Beaver Stadium’s Field.
“We’ve got a few modern tweaks, but the majority of this field, the the base that it’s built on dates back to 1958, the original construction,” said Peters.
Since construction, the field has gone relatively unchanged except for a drainage hole project in the 90s.
“Over the course of a couple of years they drilled about a quarter of a million holes inside of the football lines out here, and drilled all the way down to that gravel blanket, backfilled those holes with clean sand and removed the Hagerstown silt loam that they had drilled out with those augers to provide some vertical drainage,” Peters said.
Just days before home coming and Peters’s crew is painting the throwback endzone. A diamond pattern the team has done for a few years. Field painting takes about 70 man hours, but at kickoff will be well worth it.
“A good day is is generally going unnoticed,” Peters said. “Typically, if if there’s if our if my name is being uttered or somebody on our crew is being mentioned, it’s usually not going to be in a positive light.”
“I think that’s that’s where we get our our our satisfaction from doing the job that we do is to see it on game day,” Spotts added. “Doing the job that we do is to see it on game day and know that, you know, each and every one of us on this crew had a big part in making it look and play as safely as it does.”