Flashback: Parking Lot 80

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Any Penn Stater  and Alpha Zetan who remembers Parking Lot 80 on the University Park campus most likely recalls it most vividly in the winter months, when the vast area of asphalt became a windswept wilderness, despite the numerous parked cars which didn’t seem to provide any protection to those who traversed its icy expanse.

Located across Bigler Road from East Halls, the large parking lot held about 1,600 spaces mostly allotted for students, but also for faculty and staff, since the 1960s. East Halls students (mostly freshmen), living in the residence halls farthest removed from the center of campus, became most closely acquainted with it as they would often need to cross the lot to reach the rest of campus.

Brutal on cold mornings, Lot 80 gained a reputation and a slew of nicknames, including the Tundra and the Barrens. Students who were late for class and couldn’t wait for the Loop might set out on one end of what seemed to be a fairly benign short-cut, only to find after struggling against the ceaseless wind that their destination seemed farther away than before.

Urban legends arose about students who had been “lost” in Lot 80 and only discovered the next spring. Words like “dreadful” and “abominable” were often used to describe its icy effect. Some claimed that an Arctic vortex existed there where the natural laws of meteorology didn’t apply (okay, maybe that was just this writer).

In the summer, however, Lot 80 presented a different appearance, hosting such activities as Penn State Sports Car Club autocrosses, Frisbee games, and Homecoming Float competition judging.

In 2003, Penn State closed the lot for new construction, relocating the parking spaces to the four corners of campus. Today the site holds the Business Building, the Forest Resources Building and the Food Science Building, as well as the Berkey Creamery, a parking deck, and the Tulip Tree Promenade, gift of the class of 2006. Across Park Avenue, the Arboretum at Penn State beckons walkers to visit -- any time of year.