Joe Battista has heard the question before.
When asked if the Penn State ACHA Division I Icers would be building a new arena any time soon, the team's former head coach and current Executive Director of the Nittany Lion Club said while the objective remains the same, a new arena is still years away.
"We're working toward that and we have been working toward that," Battista said of replacing Greenberg Ice Pavilion. "I'm not saying this jokingly -- it's been for 30 years. Now Greenberg is at the end of its life cycle and you have two options. Do you retrofit it or do you move the program to a new building?"
The question arose again after an architecture firm from Kansas City was selected to study a possible design for a new hockey rink at Penn State in mid-November. Crawford Architects said in a press release it was chosen to design a new 6,000-seat arena to accommodate both the men's and women's hockey programs as well as various recreational skating programs.
Building a new arena would be a monumental step in the Penn State hockey program because it would allow the team to compete at the NCAA Division I level. Currently, the team is at the ACHA level because of Greenberg's limited seating capacity. But according to Battista, it wasn't supposed to be that way.
"Greenberg, when it was built, was supposed to be a 4,000-seat facility," Battista said. "I believe there were two things that kept it from being built the way it was supposed to be built -- it hit rock and the economy of that day [the late 1970s] was just bad. The decision was made to just finish the facility."
Battista said Greenberg was originally supposed to have a U-shaped seating arrangement, but the construction team hit solid rock near where the visitor's bench is now located, forcing the current bleacher-style seating on one side of the ice. The rink holds about half as many people as the original 4,000-seat plans called for.
Even if the facility had been completed as planned, it is likely it would still be showing its age. Built over 30 years ago, perhaps the first thing a visitor to Greenberg Ice Pavilion would notice would be the eerie yellow-tinted lighting illuminating the ice.
"I think for where we are right now as a program it's got a lot of character with how old it is, the coloring in the lighting and everything," Icers assistant coach Bill Downey said. "It's not an easy place for opponents to play, but to compete with [other NCAA teams] you would have to have facilities comparable if not better than them."
Because of the limited seating and the popularity of the hockey team at Penn State, Greenberg offers an intimate setting for games. Seats are filled for virtually every home game and during an early January series with then-No. 1 Illinois, fans were forced to stand three and four people deep along the glass at some points.
The cozy seating arrangements have led many Icers, including forward Matt Kirstein, to praise the arena for its loud and energetic atmosphere.
"It's obviously an older building, but I think everyone holds a special place in their heart for it," Kirstein said. "I think it's one of the best atmospheres in the ACHA. It's a good place to play -- it shows its age, but overall it's a good place."
For other players, like goalie Teddy Hume, a native Texan, Greenberg is a step up from previous arenas.
"Back in Texas one of the rinks I played at, no joke, was a rodeo barn with an ice sheet put in it, so Greenberg is a palace compared to that," Hume said. "In our league, no one really has a tier-one rink, but it's nice that we have an on-campus rink with ice ready for us."
With any luck, future Penn State hockey players will have the benefit of playing at a large, NCAA-ready facility in front of capacity crowds that would dwarf today's attendance figures.
But Battista said today's economy has halted those plans for the time being. Rather, the designs drawn up by Crawford Architects are more of a feasibility plan for whenever the University and the hockey program can put together the funding required for a project of the magnitude of a new ice rink.
In addition to a hockey rink, Battista said the current economic climate has impacted several sports-related construction projects.
"It was just a chance to maybe show people we were at least serious about getting a new facility built," Battista said. "We have really nice plans for a softball stadium, indoor tennis, a golf clubhouse ... until you have money, none of it's gonna happen."
Aside from funding, where to put the new arena is another major concern. Battista said several locations have been discussed, including areas near Blue Course Drive, the Penn Stater and Porter Road. He added that he thought the best place for the new arena would be near the intramural fields across Park Avenue from East Halls, but the construction of the Lewis Katz Building for the Penn State Dickinson School of Law took the site out of consideration.
Even though the construction of a new facility seems as far away as ever, Kirstein was confident NCAA Division I hockey would thrive in Happy Valley.
"I think hockey would really catch on here," Kirstein said.
"I think it already has, but if we had a new arena in a good location on campus with the players we could get here and the fans, I think it would be a great success here. People would be filling the stands all the time."
While Hume said he would love to see the program make the jump, he said he hopes it doesn't happen while he is still an Icer.
"I think it would be great for the school and for the program [if the team went to the NCAA]," Hume said.
"I've seen quite a few NCAA Division I hockey games and it's really a unique and great experience. As far as I'm concerned, they better not go D1 'til I'm outta here -- otherwise I'm off the team. Once I'm gone and graduated, then we can go D1. Until then, we've gotta stay where we are."