Rumors and speculation have existed for more than a decade, but it finally appears Penn State is on the verge of building a new ice hockey arena near the Bryce Jordan Center and adding Division I men's and women's hockey programs.
"We're close," a source close to the situation told the Mirror on Thursday. "It won't be long before we'll be able to potentially make some kind of announcement. But it's not a done deal yet."
The source spoke on the condition of anonymity, and when asked to define what "close" means said, "probably within the next two months" the wheels will be set in motion.
The first step is acquiring private funds to build a facility that would seat 6,000-8,000 people. The cost for that is expected to be between $60 million and $80 million.
Most, if not all, of that money would come from Penn State alum Terry Pegula.
"We do have a donor that's got the capacity to do this, but there is no agreement yet," the Mirror's source said.
Pegula is the founder of East Resources, a natural gas operator, and in May he sold his company to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 billion. Pegula, said to be an avid hockey fan, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The Mirror has learned that, in the past few weeks, Pegula and Penn State athletic director Tim Curley visited the University of Minnesota hockey facility and went to Notre Dame to examine the new arena being built there.
A message left for Curley was not returned Thursday.
Pegula also was seen in Chicago earlier this week at Big Ten football media days, along with Joe Battista, director of major gifts at PSU and former hockey coach at the school. Their exact business there isn't known, but they would not have needed to be there in any official football capacity.
Aside from the arena, there are many additional costs to starting a Division I hockey program, such as scholarship money and equipment. While Pegula would be the benefactor for the arena costs, he would not be alone in financial support.
"You don't add a program of this magnitude without there being other issues," the Mirror source said. "You've got scholarships for both a men's and a women's sport, and you've got operating expenses. There would have to be a number of people donating to this to make it work."
Penn State currently has men's and women's club hockey teams called the Icers and Lady Icers. They compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, which is not sanctioned by the NCAA, and play in 1,350-seat Penn State Ice Rink.
"Varsity status has been on their radar for quite some time," said one source who used to work in Penn State athletics and requested anonymity. "This isn't something new."
There wouldn't be a Title IX issue, two sources said, because Penn State would be adding a men's team and a women's team. The NCAA allows 18 scholarships for a men's hockey program, as well as 18 for the women.
Penn State commissioned Crawford Architects in Missouri to come up with design proposals for an arena, which would be built near the Jordan Center and Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. One thing that hasn't been decided is if the arena would be for hockey only or a multi-use facility.
"You get a new facility, there's a ton of excitement," said Chris Whittemore, manager of the Penn State Ice Rink. "But we have to be careful with the excitement right now because, from the little information I know, there's a lot of hurdles to climb, so you have to get through all those first before we actually get a new facility."
Whittemore added that an arena and the addition of Division I hockey programs "would be huge."
"It would be popular and exciting for Penn State, the community of State College and Centre County," he said.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. He can be reached at 949-7031 or email@example.com.