Cranberry's Graham Park to get new dek hockey rink

| Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The time-honored practice of moving old, worn out hockey nets off local roads to allow for for passing cars might not end, but young players in Cranberry will soon have an opportunity to also play in a new, state-of-the-art dek hockey rink as early as this fall.

Graham Park will get the new attraction as the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, Highmark and Cranberry Township have announced a rink will be constructed there this year.

The rink is part of a $2.3 million project, called Project Power Play, $1.5 million of which is funded by Highmark and the other $800,000 by the Penguins Foundation.

Pete Geis, Cranberry's parks and recreation director, said the township's only cost will be laying the asphalt for the rink to be built over.

The 155-foot-by-75 foot rink will be the first one to be built outside of Allegheny County by the Penguins Foundation and Highmark.

According to Geis, construction will begin within a few weeks and should be available for the community to use by October. He hopes that the rink will host 300 players in its first year.

Dave Soltesz, the president of the Penguins Foundation, said other rinks built through the project, like the ones in Oakmont, Banksfield and Brookline, have had similar success to Geis' goal.

“Each rink built has been successful,” Soltesz said. “It's about getting out there and playing and enjoying yourself.”

The dek hockey rink facilitated by the project in Richland Community Park, the one closest to the location of Cranberry's eventual rink, is hosting more than 100 youth players during their first full summer season.

“It's been a great way for parents to see how interested their kids are in the sport before making the much, much greater financial commitment to ice hockey,” said Bob Black, who coordinates the Richland rink programs. “This is a terrific way to see that commitment level and a good way for them to develop skills like stick handling, passing and shooting without taking on the toughest skill, which is skating. It's a great way of breaking your kids into hockey.”

Soltesz said the Penguins Foundation and Highmark choose communities to build in where they believe there is a great potential for the rinks to be fully used.

“When we look at these we want to see a need within a community and that there is a plan for its use,” Soltesz said. “The folks in Cranberry have a solid understanding of youth sports, and we saw a community that needs and will embrace another dek hockey rink in its area.”

While Geis said plans for the multi-sport rink's use are not set yet, he said that initially it will only be used for dek hockey. Outside of scheduled programs, plans are being prepared for how it can be temporarily rented out and also be open to the public.

The rink will include features like a dasher board system, scoreboard, player benches covered by metal shelters and dek hockey equipment.

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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