PARK, Pa. - When Penn State announced the funding for Pegula Ice Arena on Sept.
17, 2010, the Nittany Lion family knew they had just the person to oversee the planning
and development of the project.
Just three days after the announcement of Terry and Kim Pegula's historic $88 million gift to fund the state-of-the-art ice arena and the establishment of both a men's and women's Division I hockey programs, Joe Battista assumed the role of Associate Athletic Director for Ice Arena and Hockey Development.
A Penn State hockey icon, Battista played club hockey at Penn State and led the Icers to six American Collegiate Hockey Association National Championships. In his new capacity, Battista oversaw every step from groundbreaking to frozen ice of the Pegula Ice Arena project.
Here are some notes and a video with Battistan about watching a lifelong dream come true.
The Cathedral on Curtin
When Terry and Kim Pegula made their initial requests regarding their vision for Pegula Ice Arena they knew they wanted a state-of-the-art facility with all of the modern amenities and technological advancements. They wanted to erect a building that was fan friendly, but would be a pillar to attract elite student-athletes to the university they love.
Their vision has become a reality and is nestled on the corner of University Drive and Curtin Road on the Pennsylvania State University campus. It is a cathedral for college hockey, located in what has been dubbed Hockey Valley, and was a driving force in the creation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference.
"This is a spectacular place," said Battista. "To see the look on people's faces when they first walk in and see the arena for the first time is really great. I think that (the community) expected something good, but I think when they actually see the arena it blows their expectations away. That gives me great satisfaction and I just cannot thank Terry and Kim Pegula enough."
It has everything that a student-athlete could want; two NHL-sized ice surfaces, the main rink and the community rink, a 5,000-square foot weight room, hydrotherapy training room, steam room, team lounge and locker room areas. Fans will experience some of the best amenities in college hockey, with an interactive history of Penn State Hockey wall, concession stands, suites, loge boxes and club seats. In addition, the arena houses a state-of- the-art media and broadcasting facility.
All of those bells and whistles will not temper the gameday environment, however, as the arena ceiling is lined with sheet medal, which will allow the 1,000-seat student section to make Pegula Ice Arena the rockingest place in college hockey.
"Terry (Pegula) told me that he wanted this facility to be the loudest in the country," said Battista. "He said he wanted it to sound like a little kid banging on the inside of a tin can with a hammer. We think this is one of, if not the best college hockey facility in the country."
A Personal Connection
Some people wait a lifetime to see their dreams to come true, but for Battista it took just 35 years.
Those three and a half decades felt like a lifetime to the Battista, who mentioned that a Division I hockey program was the talk of the town when he arrived on campus in 1978.
"It's been a 35-year adventure for me that started when I arrived here as a freshman in 1978," said Battista. "They were talking about a 4,500-seat arena and a Division I hockey program back then. For those who were around in that era with me, they know the economy just wasn't cooperating to make that a reality...I couldn't be more thrilled that it has finally happened and I know a lot of other people feel the same way."
Waiting for the Wedding Night
Terry and Kim Pegula donated a sizeable chunk of money to build an arena with their name attached to it, but they want their first look at Penn State's new Pegula Ice Arena to be on opening night surrounded by 5,782 passionate hockey fans.
The project broke ground on April 20, 2012; however the Pegula's have not been into the building in nearly a full year to see the progress. Battista pointed out that with all of the technology available inside the facility they have been able to take a couple of virtual tours and from those have seen things that they wanted tweaked or changed.
After walking through the facility for the first time today, I am sure that the wedding night will be a special one for the Pegula's and their 5,782 ticketed guests.
"Terry told me that they wanted to wait for the wedding night," said Battista. "They have not been inside (the arena) since October. However, that doesn't mean that they haven't been actively involved. With all of the technology in this building we've been able to take them on a few virtual tours and both of them stay very connected with the process through phone conversations. They get a lot out of Facebook and twitter, too."
Also, get your own behind the scenes tour of Pegula Ice Arena from men's hockey goaltender PJ Musico by clicking here.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Greg Campbell on Twitter @SID_Greg