Penn State ‘Breaks Ground’ On New Ice Hockey Arena
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) – The groundbreaking ceremony for Penn State's new ice hockey arena looked at times like a celebration for a sport other than hockey.
Using shovels with hockey stick- shaped handles, a group of dignitaries dug into a sandbox filled with dirt set atop the green artificial turf of an outdoor field hockey playing surface on a sunny, breezy Friday morning.
Work is already under way at the actual construction site – about 50 yards away – on the building that eventually will house the Penn State hockey programs being elevated to Division I status.
“Welcome to Hockey Valley,” school President Rodney Erickson proclaimed Friday. He said the goal was to make the arena a “national model by which all other programs are measured.”
The school first announced in September 2010 that it was upgrading its club hockey teams to Division I, thanks in large part to an $88 million donation by Terry and Kim Pegula – the largest private gift in Penn State history. The money also was used to fund the ice arena, which will be named after the benefactor.
Terry Pegula is the founder and former president of the energy company East Resources Inc., a major player in Pennsylvania's burgeoning natural gas industry that was sold to Royal Dutch Shell PLC for $4.7 billion in 2010.
Pegula, who also owns the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, increased his gift commitment to Penn State to $102 million to help cover additional construction costs.
Speaking to reporters before the groundbreaking ceremony, Pegula said his commitment to the university didn't waver in spite of the upheaval at the school in the aftermath of the child sexual abuse charges against retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
“Talking to some of the people in the area, somebody needed to hear some good words, we tried to encourage people to work their way through things,” Pegula said.
The 6,000-seat arena is scheduled to open in September 2013 – just in time for the men's program to join the new Big Ten hockey conference.
Penn State's move to Division I was the driving force behind the conference forming a hockey league. Pegula's visit Friday to Penn State was his first since construction began in February. He had one request for the rink's designers.
“The only input I had besides looking and approving the way it looked ... is that I wanted it to sound like you were inside a garbage can when there's a hockey game going on,” Pegula said. “I kept telling people I wanted it to sound like a tin can inside and intimidate the opposition.”