It’s official — Penn State has a new home for hockey.
With a few drops of water, Pegula Ice Arena was christened Friday afternoon.
“Ice hockey now has a beautiful new home in ‘Happy Valley,’” Penn State President Rodney Erickson told the assembled crowd as the arena was officially opened and benefactors Terry and Kim Pegula were properly thanked for their gift to Nittany Lion athletics.
Linking the past, present and future, three small vials of water were poured onto center ice of the $90 million arena.
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Holding the vials were Terry Pegula, Joe Battista and men’s team captain Tommy Olczyk. The water in the vials came from melted snow from Mount Nittany and the Nittany Lion Shrine, as well as melted ice from the former home of the hockey programs, the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
It was Pegula’s $102 million donation — the largest gift in university history — that got the ball rolling on the building of the arena and elevating the men’s and women’s programs to Division I status, and it was Battista, associate athletic director for the ice arena and hockey development, whose dogged determination helped make the dream a reality.
After an opening video showing the building’s construction, Erickson began the event quoting “Badger” Bob Johnson, the former coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins and new Big Ten rival Wisconsin, who was famous for saying, ‘It’s a great day for hockey.”
Erickson then added, “It’s not only a great day for hockey, but a great day for Penn State.”
Speeches from board of trustees Chairman Keith Masser and Director of Athletics Dr. David Joyner followed as they celebrated the arena’s debut.
Among those singled out during the event were Katie King, who was the all-time leading scorer for the Lady Icers’ club program, and 93-year-old John Dufford, who was a member of the first varsity team in the 1940s.
Pegula spoke briefly, including quoting Matthew 7:7 from the Bible.
“Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.”
“Those words have brought me through my life and everything I’ve done,” Pegula said. “And they also seem to be the foundation for what we’ve done here with the gift, the asking, the seeking, and now I believe it’s time to knock and see what our two glorious hockey programs can do and also the programs to help young children play hockey.”
After long applause when he was introduced, Pegula thanked many of those who helped make the project possible, including a pair of men who were involved at the start, former president Graham Spanier and former director of athletics Tim Curley — drawing applause from the crowd. Both Curley and Spanier now face charges tied to the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Pegula also was glad to point out that construction was finished on time and under budget.
“That’s a pretty hard thing to do in today’s world,” said Pegula, who also owns the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.
Erickson closed the event by presenting the Pegula family with a framed “No. 1” team sweater, with their name, to hang in the family’s suite in the arena.
“The Pegula Ice Arena will be a thrilling addition to the Penn State campus,” Erickson said before handing over the gift. “And I do mean thrilling. Ice hockey is the original extreme sport and we will be able to enjoy it to its fullest in this fine arena.”
After the event, the Pegulas got a tour of their investment — the first time seeing the project since last October — from Battista.
“We built a magnificent facility,” Battista said. “Just watching the look on their faces. When we walked into the weight room, Terry was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Joe, this is better than anything I’ve seen in the NHL.’ I said, ‘Well, thank you.’ Our team that worked on this project was amazing.”
Battista also doesn’t think this was his final day as tour guide.
“I’ve got to sell the place,” he said. “... It won’t just be games. We need to keep this place rolling 360 days a year. I used to say, ‘What part of building a $90 million facility don’t you understand?’ Now I have to say, ‘What part of operating and managing a $90 million facility don’t you understand?’
“One journey ended with the building of the facility, but a new journey is beginning. It’s now time to deliver.”