I would first start by using those few pc`s you have access too to get a firm grip on both penetration testing and securing accordinly.Then Set up a network and have friends take a stab at it. I mean you did say you where just starting out....right?
I mean something like this would require a fair amount of time on your part ya know?
So i would just say pick up on your tech side of things first because if your not knowledgable (fully)on the basic penetration Techinques,exploits,etc... of your chosen OS`s your hacklab will be "owned" in no time.
If you still need more info on seting up your own lab, check out his site, good resources