Lemieux name invaluable to UPMC's planned Cranberry sports complex

This is a rendering of the proposed development of Cranberry Springs, including, at top right, the UPMC-Pittsburgh Penguins sports complex.
This is a rendering of the proposed development of Cranberry Springs, including, at top right, the UPMC-Pittsburgh Penguins sports complex.
| Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 3:33 p.m.

Putting former Penguins great Mario Lemieux's name on a new UPMC-Penguins sports medicine complex in Cranberry is gold for the health system giant, marketing experts said on Friday.

“It adds some legitimacy,” said Steve Tanzilli, associate professor of sports, arts and entertainment management at Point Park University's School of Business. “For athlete brand names in Pittsburgh, there's probably not one bigger. Being able to connect UPMC and the Lemieux brand, that is likely invaluable.”

Construction on the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex at Cranberry Springs is expected to start in March, officials said as ground was broken this week in a ceremony attended by Lemieux, co-owner of the Penguins since 1999 and team chairman, attended.

The 178,000-square-foot building will house two skating rinks and training facilities for the Penguins, and medical facilities for the public and athletes, including concussion treatment.

UPMC officials said they expect 100 people will work there. Up to 200,000 patients could get treatment there within a few years of its opening and it could attract amateur and professional athletes from across the country.

UPMC officials said they expect the first skates to hit the ice in the $72 million complex in the summer of 2015.

“We spent a lot of time thinking about a name for the facility that would provide a level of distinction for what we believe is going to be a very special place. The Lemieux name is perfect as it epitomizes the excellence we hope to achieve in Cranberry,” said Albert L. Wright Jr., vice president of operations at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, who oversees sports medicine for UPMC.

“It connects both the medical and hockey aspects of the new facility. And it's a fitting tribute to a guy who has given so much back to the region,” Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said on Friday.

The health system and Lemieux have a longstanding relationship through The Lemieux Foundation. The Lemieux name, through him, his family and his foundation, is on several UPMC facilities, including Austin's Playroom in seven hospitals, and the Lemieux Sibling Center at Children's Hospital.

The foundation, for cancer and neo-natal research, has given UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh millions of dollars in grants during more than a decade.

“Just the ability to connect the Lemieux brand, which is impenetrable, that's a great move for UPMC,” said Tanzilli, who runs a sports talent agency, Sports Legends Group.

Lemieux did not speak at the groundbreaking, and Pens officials said he declines interviews.

The UPMC and Lemieux names will be visible to thousands of motorists each day, as the sports complex will sit at the intersection of routes 19 and 228 and Interstate 79. UPMC officials have said they chose the location, on property owned by developer Gary Sippel, because of its proximity to major roadways and its visibility.

Sippel plans hotels and office space on the 90-acre site, but is concentrating first on the UPMC complex.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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