PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—The venerable old brick building still holds a special place for those who played there and for those who used to walk past it on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus every day. Parts of the original brick foundation remain strong since it was built in 1895.
But the blue tarp that had been covering the left side of the building was pulled off after months, revealing a new face. Well, more like a new arm of historic Franklin Field Saturday, with the introduction of the Weiss Pavilion. The new look is three stories of $25-milllion state-of-the-art renovations done to Penn’s weight room, and general exercise facilities that will be open to the general Penn community.
The new look includes arching windows and will have a glass-encased replica in the Weiss Pavilion atrium of the Heisman Trophy, which the New York Downtown Athletic Club donated to the school, since the trophy is named after the former Penn football coach John Heisman.
What used to be 5,000-square feet of conditioning equipment and space has been converted into 18,000-square feet. What was once described as one long, dingy, dirty closet where the Penn football team used to train is a modern facility that will not only house the conditioning of the Quakers’ football team, but all sports.
George Weiss, a 1965 Penn grad who the facility is named after and played a major role in the renovation, was there Saturday for a formal presentation. Weiss playfully went into a Heisman pose, hunched over, straight-arm out, before officially cutting the ribbon to the new facility that bears his name.
“There are players who I spoke to who played in the NFL and they told me there was nothing like Franklin Field, even in the NFL, a first-class place and a first-class facility,” Weiss said. “I’m not really crazy about having my name on things, but everything they have done has really turned this into something beautiful.”
The transformation was actually like a beautiful girl kissing a frog and the frog emerging into a prince. Franklin Field’s age had caused deterioration in spots over the decades, and the old weight room was often described as an old closet.
“That’s really what it was before this,” said James Fangmeyer, a 1987 Penn graduate who was a two-year starter at free safety for the Quakers in 1985 and ’86 that came up from Maryland for the dedication. “The old place was like the catacombs in comparison to this facility. This place is phenomenal. It’s tremendous what Penn has done, it’s really amazing. I’ll tell you this, it’s a win-win for everyone. For the school, and for recruiting.”
The timing couldn’t have been any better. As Penn was prepared to host Brown on Saturday, a large contingent of area football players lined up to a take a recruiting tour of the Weiss Pavilion, with its specially designed weight racks (featuring Auto Spot, the only weight rack in a college weight room in the country of its kind), a Mondo sports floor, for floor training, and will soon feature a collage of the “Faces of Penn,” like former Penn all-time great Chuck Bednarik, up on the bare walls.
The Weiss Pavilion, on the north end of Franklin Field, has helped the old place reached 2010. But the old brick pillars still remain at intervals throughout the facility. The old place still wears a smile. It’s just a different smile with some flashy cosmetic work.
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito