State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Pegula Ice Arena opens its doors

by on October 03, 2013 11:49 AM

UNIVERSITY PARK — After years and years of disappointments, near-misses and failed attempts, the waiting is over.

Division I hockey once again has a place within Happy Valley.

"The dream's come true," said Joe Battista, the associate athletic director for ice arena and hockey development who previously coached the Nittany Lions' club team for nearly two decades.

"Now we get to help a whole generation of skaters, hockey fans, to enjoy this magnificent gift to central Pennsylvania from the Pegulas."

The Pegula Ice Arena, which will be home to the men's and women's hockey teams, is nearly ready for its historic debut. Outside of a few odds and ends, such as installing televisions and ensuring all the advertisements are in place, Pegula is fully functional.

Although the first home game won't be until Friday, Oct. 11, when the men's team hosts Army, the cafe area inside the arena is already open to the public, as is the community rink, a second skating area that allows people to recreationally skate.

Terry and Kim Pegula, who donated the money and for whom the building is named, gave Battista and the architects numerous objectives within their design plan.

Build a state-of-the-art facility with technical amenities. Make the arena fan-friendly and attractive to the top student-athletes in the country. The Pegulas also wanted an electric atmosphere that would create a fun, exciting, rocking vibe.

Mission accomplished.

"This building, we think, is going to be the premier college hockey facility in North America," Battista said. "We have tried our best to learn from as many other college programs, and other pro and minor-pro facilities throughout the country we visited."

In accordance with wanting to make an environment that won't appeal to visiting teams, the student section is comprised entirely of bleachers that don't have backs, enticing students to stand the entire time. And the roof is entirely made of metal, with Battista using the analogy that the place will sound like a kid hitting a tin can with a hammer.

"It is going to be loud and it is going to be exciting," he said.

The men's and women's teams each have their own dry and wet locker rooms, stick room and lounges. There's also a spacious workout facility, hydrotherapy room and video suites that coaches and players from both teams can regularly use.

Everything is first-class. The hydrotherapy room, for example, boasts a sauna, hot and cold tubs and an underground treadmill, luxuries most teams don't even have in the NHL. Battista said most other teams have some form of a hydrotherapy room, but the Buffalo Sabres, which Terry Pegula also owns, for example, have above-ground hot and cold tubs.

The plan also called to make Pegula accessible to everyone in the region and state, with Battista adding, "This was not just about two varsity hockey teams, but this was really a facility that will serve all of central Pennsylvania, the state and region and be able to host state regional and national ice hockey events."

One such event is already planned for early November. In the meantime, the Nittany Lions will play host to sellout crowds.

All of the 14 suites are sold, as are all the season tickets. Only 22 single-game tickets remain for the season, and tickets for the home opener against Army are selling on the website StubHub for as much as $350, Battista noted.

Battista displayed genuine excitement as he finished a Q&A session with the media and led a tour of the building Wednesday of last week. He noted that 13 previous proposals were made between 1983 and 2006 to re-launch hockey as a varsity sport, as it was in the 1940s, before the $88 million construction of Pegula was conceptualized and completed.

Is Penn State ready? Battista sure thinks so.

"My bold prediction is that people are going to fall in love with this building, they're going to fall in love with hockey as a sport, they're going to fall in love with the teams that we've got out there," he said, "and this thing is just going to get bigger and bigger and bigger."


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