$220K rink opens with fanfare
A buzzer usually signals the end of a hockey game, but on Friday, it marked the beginning for a dek hockey rink in Oakmont's Riverside Park.
The buzzer on the rink's scoreboard went off not long after representatives of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, Highmark, Oakmont and others cut a ribbon in front of the net for the facility's grand opening.
The $220,000 rink was completed in September as part of “Project Power Play,” a collaboration between the foundation and Highmark.
It's the sixth of 12 planned facilities throughout the region, and the first in the Alle-Kiski Valley.
“It's about our mission: keeping kids healthy,” foundation President Dave Soltesz said. “The idea is to make it affordable for these kids to play. All they need is a stick, a ball and tennis shoes.”
Along with Soltesz, Penguins CEO David Morehouse, state Rep. Frank Dermody and Highmark Executive Vice President Dan Onorato presided over the ceremony.
In his opening remarks, Oakmont Mayor Robert Fescemyer said the rink will benefit the borough economically by bringing people to the borough for league play.
The overall $2.1 million project started in summer 2012. The other rinks built to date are in Wilkinsburg, Banksville, Richland Township and two in Pittsburgh: Hazelwood and Brookline.
Four more rinks are planned to be built next year, Soltesz said.
The only confirmed location is Boyce Park.
Sites are selected and considered based on need, utilization, supervision and location — generally near a park or community center.
Each dek hockey rink features multisport courts, NHL-quality dasher board systems and scoreboards. They include player benches with shelter, penalty box and scorer's table.
To receive the rink, Oakmont prepared the site by moving a baseball field and tearing out asphalt. The Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority gave the borough $80,000 for the work.
Residents were surveyed about five years ago about what amenities they wanted in the park. A dek hockey rink was in the top three, said Tom Bland, chairman of the borough's recreation board.
“We didn't know how we could afford it,” he said. “It was an expensive facility.”
With a desire to make Riverside Park usable year-round, Bland said they approached the Penguins about funding for an ice rink; they learned of the dek hockey project and applied for that.
Construction started in July. In use since early October, the rink has proven popular.
“It's packed every evening after school,” Bland said.
The rink is open to the public. A group of adults is forming a youth league, Bland said.
A group of students from the adjacent Riverview Junior-Senior High School attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Sam Connolly, 13, said he and his friends have been using the rink. They had been playing in a church parking lot.
“It's really nice,” he said.
Principal Jay Moser said the school hopes to work with the borough to use the rink, with the goal of setting up games with teams from other school districts.
“Our kids come over here all the time,” Moser said.
Onorato, a former Allegheny County executive, warned that the next issue Oakmont officials may have to address will be residents wanting lights at the rink.
“That's a good problem to have,” he said.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or firstname.lastname@example.org.