Penn State Hockey

Penn State hockey: New Pegula Ice Arena polished and ready to go

gbrunski@centredaily.comSeptember 26, 2013 

— If your seat at Pegula Ice Arena is in Section 113, Row L, Seat 107, you have an excellent view of the ice.

Actually, there isn’t a bad seat in the house, whether you are in Row A of Section 111, the top row of Section 202 or in Suite 1.

It’s also hard to find anything not to like about the rest of the new building at the corner of Curtin Road and University Drive — the new home for the Penn State men’s and women’s ice hockey teams and community skate programs.

A final walk-through was given to the media Wednesday afternoon of Pegula Ice Arena, the $90-million hockey palace on campus, and it is hard to imagine there is much to improve.

“When we first stepped in there I was kind of speechless,” goaltender PJ Musico said. “It’s absolutely gorgeous. I don’t think there’s any college team in the nation that has a facility like this, that has these amenities. We’re really lucky, blessed and thankful to be here.”

Aside from a few details here and there, like installing a handful of televisions, hanging advertisements on the boards and finishing the arena restaurant, the building is ready for its grand debut. Public tours already are being offered, both Nittany Lion teams are using the two rinks and workout areas in preparation for the coming seasons, and interactive displays are up and running.

The big splash comes Oct. 11, when the building is officially dedicated at 1:30 p.m. and the first event — the season opener for the men against Army — has the puck drop at 8 p.m.

“We have had a lot of fun building this building,” said Joe Battista, the associate athletic director for ice arena and hockey development, and the main catalyst for getting the dream realized. “We think it is going to be a great attraction for Central Pennsylvania and going to be an economic engine.”

The construction project, that began with digging a massive hole on January 2012, has come in on budget and on schedule. The ice went down Aug. 20, the men’s and women’s teams moved into the building on Sept. 9 and thousands of people involved are eager to see the finished product open for business.

Even others on campus are intrigued.

“Being Canadian, hockey is just a part of your blood,” said Penn State running back Akeel Lynch. “I’m definitely excited to see a couple of hockey games this year at the Pegula Arena. I heard it’s one of the best facilities in the world for hockey.”

The main arena will have an official capacity of 6,014, including 233 standing-room-only tickets.

The most impressive number Battista gave Wednesday, with a lot of eye-popping numbers mentioned, was that a mere 22 men’s hockey season tickets remain unsold — and they are single seats scattered around the arena. In addition to seats in the main bowl, all 14 suites have been spoken for, all 98 loge seats are gone and all 525 club seats are sold.

All that remains, in addition to the 22 open seats and 233 standing-room spots, are 200 seats which will be held for single-game sale and visiting team needs.

The opening game is an even hotter ticket — seats are up for sale on StubHub for as much as $325, and Penn State is already turning down seat requests.

Battista also said the program is well on its way to its goal of being self-sustaining. Selling out every game helps, as does having a building that is already paid for.

The dream, which had been in the works for decades, came to fruition in September, 2010, with a donation of $88 million from Terry and Kim Pegula — the largest single gift in Penn State history. The Pegulas since added another $14 million to the pot to help pay for additional program expenses, and Battista has an additional goal of raising $10 million more to help endow scholarships. Of the 36 scholarships available for the two programs, he said 22 are covered. He also said he has oral commitments for almost all of the $10 million goal, with about $5.5 million signed and sealed.

In addition to the varsity hockey teams, the building also will be ready to host the many other events set for the arena, including youth and adult hockey leagues, education programs and figure skating sessions.

They also have their first professional exhibition set for Nov. 3, with the Musselman’s Applesauce Family Skating Tribute featuring an array of former Olympic skaters. Tickets for that go on sale Friday. The event will be taped and shown nationally on NBC on Nov. 24.

While so much is in place and skates are already cutting the ice, Battista also admitted there will be unforeseen bugs to attend to, including finding the perfect temperature and humidity levels for the ice surfaces.

“We’ve still got a year before we really know this building tooth-and-nail,” Battista said. “The teams — just trying to make sure they’ve got everything they need to be as competitive as they need to be.”

But he certainly has been thrilled watching the reactions of visitors when they walk into the building for the first time — not to mention the Nittany Lion teams.

“On behalf of a lot of other people who have dreamed this dream, I couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s happened,” Battista said. “I couldn’t be happier with the facility. It is magnificent. When you see the looks on men’s and women’s players as we did when we moved in here on Sept 9, it made it all worth it.”

The experience made it tough the first time those student-athletes put on their skates as well.

“I almost fell down I was too busy looking around,” Musico said. “It definitely took a little while to sink in. … We couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s absolutely beautiful.”

Ice shavings

•  Battista said there has yet to be an official decision on what will happen to the old home at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion. It could be turned into a varsity training facility and high performance fitness training area, or it could be turned into a student recreation facility. One thing is clear: There will be no more skating. The final skating event was Sunday, and the ice is being shaved down this week. Once they shave it to a half-inch, the compressors will be turned off, and crews will begin breaking the ice into chunks to be hauled away.

• While holding an NHL exhibition game in the arena is unlikely, since it is too small, he expects to see a team use the rink for a training camp.

•  Battista also said a hockey game at Beaver Stadium is still possible.

“The goal of someday playing at Beaver Stadium is — it’s in the works,” Battista said. “It’s not as imminent as people out there would like to think, but it’s definitely being talked about.”

Battista would love to see Penn State play a marquee program — like Boston College, Notre Dame and Michigan as examples — in addition to his hope of seeing an NHL game hit town.

 

Travis Johnson contributed to this story.

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