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Unfavorable weather, permit delays push SportsWorks opening to December

| Monday, June 22, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

Troublesome weather and construction permit delays have pushed back the scheduled opening of the Highmark SportsWorks on the North Shore by three months.

Mike Marcus, spokesman for the Carnegie Science Center, which will operate the 20,000-square-foot facility dedicated to the science of sports, said it could be December before the doors open. Originally, it was to open by Labor Day.

"We had some normal construction delays in the beginning stages, but we have moved past them," Marcus said. "The steel frame is going up right now, so we are moving right along."

Construction on the $5 million project, funded by the Port Authority of Allegheny County's purchase of the former SportsWorks site, started last fall adjacent to the science center.

The old SportsWorks, located a block from the science center, closed last summer to make way for a light-rail station as part of Port Authority's North Shore Connector project.

Highmark SportsWorks will include interactive favorites such as a rock-climbing wall and giant trampoline. New features will be dedicated to health-related issues and include a calorie cycle and a simulated ride through the human body.

Science center co-director Ann Metzger said she expects as many as 80 percent of the 500,000 people who visit the center annually will venture next door to Highmark SportsWorks. Admission to both will be included in the $10 fee for children and $14 fee for adults.

"When you make it more convenient, you get more people," Metzger said. "With new features and a new building, museum-goers have a lot to be excited about."

Officials did not track how many people went from the science center to the old SportsWorks. UPMC owned the naming rights from 2001-07. Highmark Inc. and the science center have declined to say how much the insurer paid, but Metzger said the three-year deal is comparable to UPMC's.

John Montgomery, a sixth-grade science teacher at Shenango Junior High School in New Castle, looks forward to taking his students on field trips to Highmark SportsWorks and the science center.

"The science center has a lot of hands-on science that we teach our students all year," Montgomery said. "It's a really fun learning experience for the kids that always goes right along with our curriculum — you can't ask for more as a teacher."

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