Courtyard at the Nittany Lion Inn revamped by landscape students, OPP

June 29, 2009

Through the combined efforts of Penn State students enrolled in the Landscape Contracting Program in the College of Agricultural Sciences and employees at the Office of Physical Plant (OPP), the enclosed courtyard at the Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State’s University Park campus has seen a major overhaul.

Before work began, the courtyard was a concrete putting green covered in Astroturf; now it is a budding, inviting, meticulously landscaped space, complete with a fountain and a gazebo.

“I think the intent of this project was two-fold: to improve the view from the rooms that look down on the courtyard and to bring more guests outside,” said Dan Stearns, professor of landscape contracting.

Serious discussions about the project began in summer 2008, and on April 7, 56 juniors and seniors who were enrolled in Penn State’s Landscape Construction course began working in shifts to renovate the courtyard.

Jim Purdum, general manager for hospitality services at Penn State, said the new environment is a plus for the inn and said it adds to enhancements already made to the parking circle and the lobby.

“We hope that (the courtyard) will become a social gathering place for our guests,” he said. “The natural and beautiful environment will make it a great place to host small receptions; it will also be a fabulous backdrop for wedding and graduation photos.”

Stearns, who has been leading students through the Landscape Contracting Program since it began in 1992, said doing landscaping work in an enclosed area presented unique problems.

“We had 110 feet of carpeted hallway to protect. We also had to consider guests and the way they would be affected,” he said.

The challenges began immediately.

“We were in the courtyard with jackhammers and wet saws (cutting the concrete that sat below the Astroturf on the putting green). Students hauled the broken concrete through the building using wheelbarrows,” Stearns said.

Derek Kalp, a landscape designer for OPP’s Division of Campus Planning and Design, prepared the plan for the courtyard and presented it to the students involved in the construction course in January 2009. Kalp said he always enjoys working with students in the program.

“It’s a great experience. The students are a really motivated group,” said Kalp. “They’re committed and they’re hungry for real world projects. They get to experience the joy of accomplishment, but also the frustrations that come with making a complex project come to life. They go through all of the setbacks and triumphs. It is really good experience and it’s always positive.”

The program is a win-win for all involved. The inn has a new, inviting space for its guests to enjoy. Students were involved in many aspects of the project and gained invaluable work experience. Everyone came away with the satisfaction of a job well done.

“This project is something that they can take pride in,” Stearns said. “Twenty years from now they can bring their kids back and tell them that they shaped this space.”

Purdum said a fall 2009 reception is planned for students who worked on the project.

“They worked their tails off,” he said. “We’re going to honor them with a small celebration when they come back.”

To see photos taken of the courtyard renovation project as it progressed, visit online.

  • The new Gazebo Courtyard at the Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State's University Park campus.

    IMAGE: Andy Colwell
Last Updated November 18, 2010