After months of speculation and years of hoping and wishing, it was officially announced on Friday that Penn State will field Division I men’s and women’s hockey teams starting in the 2012-2013 season thanks to the largest private philanthropic donation in the history of the university.
Terry and Kim Pegula have put forth an $88 million contribution for a yet to be named, state-of-the-art arena as well as scholarships for both teams and the beginning of operation costs for such an undertaking. The arena is expected to hold 5,000-6,000 spectators although that number won’t be finalized until an architect can be hired and detailed plans are drafted. It is expected to open in December 2013.
The new arena will be located behind Shields Building on the corner of University Drive and Curtin Road
and will include 2 sheets of ice which will be used for the teams, figure skating, professional ice shows, kinesiology classes and hopfully NHL or AHL exhibition games. It is the hope of Penn State that it will be as important for the community as it will be for the university.
Pegula said thoughts of a varsity hockey team at Penn State started in his head in late 2006 when he sat down to dinner with former Icers coach Joe Battista, who is now the head of major gifts of the Smeal College and the rumored new associate athletic director of ice hockey. He hesitated about whether he wanted to leave such a “treasure on Earth,” but was convinced to do so when he thought back to coaching his own son’s hockey team when he was nine and ten years old.
Athletic Director Tim Curley said that the team will begin play in the winter of 2012 and will play in Greenberg Ice Pavilion for the first two seasons (although a move into the new arena for the second half of the 2013-2014 season is possible). The teams will play an independent Division I schedule for their first two years of competition before entering conference play in 2014-2015.
Conference plans have not been made yet. Rumors point towards a Big Ten hockey conference to be started on the men’s side, but Curley said that talks with all collegiate hockey colleagues will come in the near future to plan out the best possible course. The women’s team would play in one of the strong Eastern conferences as there are only three other Big Ten teams fielding women’s teams at the moment.
Pegula golfed with many members from the Pittsburgh Penguins organization on Thursday and was greeted by Sidney Crosby, who could not keep in his excitement about the proposed plan. Pegula said he hopes to find “Pennsylvania’s Crosby” come out of Penn State sometime in the future.
This donation is definitely a start in that direction, Mr. Pegula. Penn State thanks you for your generosity, and here’s hoping that your dream of the next NHL and Olympic champion coming through Happy Valley comes true.
Video of the press conference can be found here.