Ground was broken for the Center back in 1993. Due to one of the worst winters in Penn State history in 1994, construction was set back several months. Bobby Knight, basketball coach at Indiana University, visited the university during the construction and said that it would take a "construction company from Mars" to finish the Jordan Center on time. However, with the help of a mild winter in 1995 and about two years of construction, this state-of-the-art, 400,000 square foot multipurpose building became reality on January 6, 1996.
"We have planned for a multipurpose facility, one which addresses the inadequacies of current University facilities for academic convocations, cultural events, athletic events, conventions, concerts, alumni functions and other such event," former Penn State president Dr. Joab Thomas said.
The Bryce Jordan Center is home of Penn State basketball and was built to meet team, patron and media needs. "In a perfect meeting of time and place," one reviewer of the home opener for Penn State Hoops wrote, "14,852 folks came out of the cold last night to see an unbeaten Penn State open a fabulous new arena, the Bryce Jordan Center. They waited respectfully to be let in at 6:00pm. When the fans got inside, they saw an arena with wonderful sight lines from the highest seat to the most distant corner.
In addition to basketball, this versatile center was designed to accommodate a variety of groups and events, from a twenty person meeting to a banquet for 1,600 to a concert with 15,000 guests.
The center, built adjacent to the university's 107,282 seat Beaver Stadium, has a bi-level design, which gives it a lower profile and complements the curve of nearby landmark Nittany Mountain. Architect Rosser International Inc. out of Atlanta came up with the plan, which incorporates brick and glass, helping to retain some of the university feel while taking advantage of a spectacular view.
The quantities of materials used in the construction are staggering: 3,100 tons of structural steel, 26,000 cubic yards of concrete and 5,600 tons of precast concrete (seating). The highest point from the floor to the roof is 126 feet.
VIP boxes, a top-of-the-line computer controlled rigging system, meeting and function rooms and the goal of a "Disneyland atmosphere" when it comes to customer service was designed to help make the Bryce Jordan Center a showpiece among other university and multipurpose facilities. "From a university standpoint this gives us a facility to use for university functions and athletics," said Bill McKinnon, former vice-president for business and operations at Penn State. "But we're also looking for it to become a civic center for the middle of this state. We wanted to build a facility that not only served the university's needs, but also the region's needs."
The Jordan Center, funded through state and private dollars at a cost of $55 million, was built to be a major source of athletic, academic, conference and entertainment excitement in Central Pennsylvania for decades to come. The facility has hosted circuses, NBA pre-season games, family shows, commencements and lectures, as well as some of the top name performers in the music industry. Country superstar Garth Brooks sold out five shows in April 1997, becoming the fastest sellout in the arena's history. Other performers to entertain at the Jordan Center include Janet Jackson, Billy Joel, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, the Backstreet Boys, Aerosmith, Cher, Gloria Estefan, Whitney Houston, Yanni and Metallica.
The Bryce Jordan Center has played host to the top names in the entertainment industry and quickly became the source for academic, conference, and sports excitement in Central Pennsylvania.