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Official Review by Joshua Guiher, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Penn State is in the process of taking their hockey from the club level to Division I. They are also in the process of building the most state-of-the-art college hockey arena, named the Pegula Ice Arena after an $88 million donation from Terry Pegula, owner of the Buffalo Sabres.
Until the arena is complete in time for the 2013-2014 season, the team currently plays in the outdated Penn State Ice Pavilion. Find out what a game is like at Penn State and if the experience can overcome the old building.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
My experience was a small menu with a slow moving line. If you were not one of the first 20 or so people in line during intermission, you likely were still in line when the next period started.
The lone bright spot was Tim Horton's coffee and hot cocoa for $2 each. Other drinks were Pepsi products, which were $3 for a 32oz cup, $3 for bottled water and $3 for a slush. Pretzels ($2), hot dogs ($3), ice cream ($2.50), and nachos and cheese ($3) were the only real food options worth mentioning.
All I can recommend is that you eat before coming to a game. I have season tickets and it only took me one game to learn this lesson.
The atmosphere is great at a Penn State hockey game. The fans are loud and finding a ticket can be very hard. During breaks in the action, the crowd is kept into the game with great music selections.
The team is one of the best club teams in the country, and the fan anticipation for the Division I move is sky high, so it is consistently loud in the building.
The biggest issue is that the team routinely wins by huge margins, meaning the fans react a little less after every goal.
The arena is located in an odd section of campus, behind the athletic dorms, below the football practice facility. To get downtown is only about a quarter-mile walk, but that is the side of town without many options for food. The best option is Inferno Pizza, a good but expensive locally owned restaurant with alcohol.
Further down College Avenue you will find more locally owned restaurants, including the sports themed place called The Fraser Street Deli. They have over a hundred sandwiches, all named after Penn State presidents, professors and athletes, such as Franco Harris.
If you want a bar, well there are plenty, but they are geared toward students. Good specials on cheap beers are going to be the norm, not local brews and nice seating.
If you want a good local brewery, head out North Atherton Street about five miles to Otto's Pub. They have a great selection of beers all brewed on premise.
The fans at a Penn State hockey game are rabid. The place is full almost every game, with the majority being sell outs. The hardest part is getting to your seat due to the tight construction and full stands. Thankfully everyone is polite, making the situation palatable.
Once the game starts, the fans are amazing. They are loud, knowledgeable and fully engaged to the game action. I'm sure there are better college hockey atmospheres since the arena has limited seating, but my guess is no place gets the same noise per person in attendance than at Penn State. In fact, the crowd is noticeably louder than a fair portion of the minor league hockey games I have attended.
I'm sure as the team completes the move to Division I, and the new arena allows for six times the seating, that the fans section will be rated a full five stars. The real missing link was a larger student cheering section.
Parking is free, and there is enough, but you have to be careful where you park. There is a big lot right around the corner, or you can park about two blocks down Bigler Road by the nuclear reactor. In fact, it is probably better to park on Bigler to avoid traffic after the game. Since all of the roads connect at an odd 5-way intersection, you want to be on the road with the least amount of traffic.
Just do not park in the lot near the athletic housing, as you will get a ticket and get towed because they are reserved for the permit holders. Thankfully the lots are easily marked with some of the largest signs I've ever seen, so you can't go wrong if you just look.
There is only one entrance and stands are only on one side of the ice. It can take a while for everyone to get to their seat. Combine the narrow entrance to the stands with poor section markings and finding your actual seat is a real pain. Seats are a bit tight, which is typical at Penn State sporting events so don't bring extra items with you.
The bathroom is tucked in the back corner and not very big, but it gets the job done.
Ticket prices are less than $10 per person, but are alright for college hockey. I'll be curious to see how much they go up after the move to Division I next year and the new building the year after.
The extra point is for the staff being so polite. They allowed me to shoot photos from just about anywhere I wanted without being credentialed. They even helped set up my camera to handle the odd yellow lighting that the arena has. The full arena netting makes taking pictures nearly impossible from your seat.
It will be exciting to see the team compete at the proper level, and in a proper building. I suggest you wait until 2013 to come to a game unless you have a specific reason to come to a hockey game at Penn State.
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109 S Fraser St
State College, PA 16801
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