Friday, October 05, 2007

Hockey Hell -- Media Alert: I'm available to talk about community facilities and hockey matters

Media: I'll walk around the South Side Park to get updated photos at 3:15 pm today, Friday. I'll be happy to provide some insights and comments to this latest development. At 4 pm today, my son finishes his afterschool activities at Phillips Elementary School on Sarah Street. I'll be there to pick him up then, as they finish playing deck hockey on the outdoor playground.
From Pens Village

I have a lot to say about the sports facilities and discussions that are brewing and have been cooking for years around the city and the South Side.
From playground - usa

Today's news hit the Trib:
Pens eye practice rink for new arena - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Pens eye practice rink for new arena"

By Jeremy Boren TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Friday, October 5, 2007

Amateur hockey players in Pittsburgh might be able to hone their slap shots on ice where the pros play -- or where they practice, anyway.

The Penguins are talking with the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority about including a practice ice rink that could be rented for public use in the $290 million arena to be built Uptown.

"They want to put a practice rink in the arena for college and high school kids," City Councilman Jeff Koch said Thursday after meeting privately with sports authority officials. "The Penguins would be responsible for the extra cost," he said, primarily created by the need for a second set of equipment to maintain the ice.

Discussions of a practice rink are only beginning, "but it's fair to say that it's being explored," authority Director Mary Conturo said. It's unclear when a decision would be made.

"We are definitely looking at where (a practice facility) might fit," said Ken Sawyer, Penguins CEO. "If we can do it, we would love to do it. It is just an added feature with a double benefit because it would help the inner-city community have a rink, which is not the case right now."

The Penguins, which open the 2007-08 season at 7 p.m. today against the Carolina Hurricanes, practice at the Iceoplex at Southpointe in Canonsburg.

Privately, Penguins officials said their goal is to make the rink available to amateur teams and ice skaters.

"We think that it is a good idea. We support whatever they want to do," said Noor Ismail, city Planning Department director.

She said the rink would answer calls from people who attended seven focus-group meetings in July about what public amenities the arena could offer. The size of the arena won't necessarily increase to accommodate the second rink, she said.

If the rink is part of the arena slated to open for the 2010-11 season, the Penguins would be the third National Hockey League team to have a separate practice rink on the site of the normal game-day rink. The Columbus Blue Jackets had the first in Nationwide Arena, which opened in 2000. The New Jersey Devils will be the second when the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., opens Oct. 25

"It's nice because there are synergies to having the practice rink in the same place. You can use the same locker room, weight rooms and medical facilities," said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based Sportscorp LTD, an adviser to Allegheny County officials who worked out deals to build Heinz Field and PNC Park on the North Shore in the 1990s.

"Ice sheets are in high demand, especially in urban areas around the country," Ganis said. "And if you have an ice sheet where the professional team plays, it adds a lot of cache to the venue, and you can charge a premium price."

Staff Writer Rob Rossi contributed to this report.

Jeremy Boren can be reached at or 412-765-2312.

hockey hell

Blast from the past:

Group wants rink reopened - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Activist group feels everything's nicer on ice

By Tony LaRussa, TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Sunday, February 16, 2003

It might be the coldest winter in Pittsburgh for nearly a decade, but ice is in short supply for devotees of hockey and ice skating.

Community activists on the South Side would like to add a little more ice to the supply by seeing the former Neville Ice Rink on 21st Street reopened.

The rink would be a welcome addition to a local hockey organization if the facility is up to the standards of other rinks in the region, said Ed Sam, commissioner of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League.

From Mark Rauterkus
"I think if somebody went there and addressed the issues that existed before it closed, and then went out and recruited some of the schools in the area, they should be able to make a go of it," Sam said.

Sam said the problems mostly had to do with limited access to the downstairs locker rooms, which raised concerns among parents about the safety of players, and the condition of the boards surrounding the ice.

The rink is owned by the City of Pittsburgh and was leased to an operator. It was closed in 2001 after city officials received several complaints from residents about noise from all-night "rave" parties that were being held, said Duane Ashley, head of the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

Ashley said a consultant who recently conducted a review of the facility determined that it is in "relatively decent shape."

"Most of what's needed is cosmetic, and the amenities such as locker rooms are sub-par," he said. "Other than that, it is in surprisingly good condition."

Community activist Mark Rauterkus of South 12th Street said discussions at a number of the community organization meetings that he attends have increasingly turned to the issue of reopening the ice rink.

"People feel that it is a shame for us to have a facility like this just sitting empty," said Rauterkus, 42, who has two sons. "I just think we need more amenities, more things to offer our young people. Having the rink closed creates a dark hole in that part of the neighborhood."

Mark Kinney, who serves on the Market House Children's Athletic Association board, is working to reopen the rink. The association coordinates recreational programs for more than 500 South Side children.

"It's not like we have a vacant piece of land, and we're saying we want to build a new ice skating rink on it from scratch," said Kinney, who lives on Leticoe Street. "The facility is already there. We just need to get people together and work with the city to get it opened."

The president of one of only two public high school hockey programs in the city said her club has been struggling since the rink closed.

"We now have to drive out near the airport to practice and play games," said Cheryl Sullivan, president of the Carrick Hockey Association. "If the rink opens on the South Side, we'll be first in line to book ice time."

Ashley said a financial assessment will have to be done to determine the cost of reopening the rink and then it will be presented to the mayor's office. The city also would gather public comment on the project.

"We will be looking for long-term commitments from ... the community," Ashley said. "The last thing we want is to spend money to reopen it and then see it go south again."

Carey Harris, executive director of the South Side Local Development Co., said a number of residents have expressed interest in seeing the rink opened.

"At public meetings we've held, residents have been loud and clear in voicing their desire to see the ice rink returned to public use," Harris said.

Harris said reopening the rink could be part of an overall revitalization of the corridor leading up from the $170 million South Side Works project. The rink is less than a block past UPMC South Side and the Brew House complex. The ice rink site is connected by steps to the Slopes, where a baseball and football field are situated.

Kevin Zielmanski, who has been coach of the hockey team at Central Catholic High School in Oakland for the past six years, said having a rink so close to the school would be a great asset.

"Right now, we have to use three separate facilities each week," Zielmanski said. The team plays its games in Harmar and also practices at rinks in Monroeville and Marshall.

Tony LaRussa can be reached at or 412-320-7987.

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