UNIVERSITY PARK — With so many NHL fans in the area, Penn State men’s hockey coach Guy Gadowsky says it will just take exposure to Division I play to draw students and others to games in his team’s first D-I season.
“I don’t look at it as a challenge,” Gadowsky said of what it will take to fill seats.
Student ticket sales indicate he’s right, with 799 five-game packages and 273 full season tickets sold as of last week. (Only season ticket holders from last year were allowed to get them in 2012-13.)
Penn State will play this season at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion, which holds 1,350 people. The Nittany Lions have 16 home games and open against American University Oct. 12.
Two of the three student ticket packages, which cost $20, are sold out, and the third had few remaining last week. The five-ticket packages were designed to triple the number of people who get to see games,” said Joe Battista, associate athletic director for ice arena and hockey development.
Battista said the rink will sell 300 standing-room-only tickets for each game. He said there aren’t any plans to change the rink to fit in more people, but he expects it to be loud and provide the team with a definitive home-ice advantage.
Next season the program will move to the Pegula Ice Arena, which is under construction. Buffalo Sabres owner and billionaire Terry Pegula donated more than $100 million to fund the arena and the team’s jump to Division I. The 200,000-square-foot facility will have 6,000 seats, a strength and conditioning center, suites and a 300-seat community rink.
“I can’t even express how excited I am,” Gadowsky said. “It’s going to be a tremendous place to watch a hockey game. The environment is going to be unreal.”
Battista said it won’t be hard to attract fans in the first two years. The challenge will be sustaining a solid fan base, and winning will certainly help. He said people from outside Centre County will need to attend, and it helps that most games will be played on Friday and Saturday nights.
“We purposely chose to build a 6,000-seat stadium,” Battista said. “We didn’t want to build a church for Easter Sunday.”
Steven Petrella is a Penn State journalism student.