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Health club hopes to fill void with new ice rink

| Wednesday, March 26, 2003

With the future of the Golden Mile Ice Rink in Monroeville in doubt, the owner of a Penn Hills health club sees a golden opportunity.

The Olympic Swim & Health Club, which already operates two dek hockey rinks on Twin Oaks Drive, wants to fill a long-standing void in the eastern suburbs by adding an ice hockey rink.

"I don't have millions of dollars, and I'm not talking about putting in a restaurant or anything like that," said the club's owner, Mary Sullivan, of Churchill. "What I'm proposing is a very simple, basic rink, with good ice and nice, clean facilities, in a building that's heated."

Sullivan will seek approval from the Penn Hills Planning Commission on Thursday to install the ice rink in what is zoned as a residential district. She has owned the health club there since 1978.

Howard Davidson, director of the Penn Hills Planning and Economic Development Department, said his staff recommended approval of the request.

"Other people have approached us about a project like this in the past, but then they've never followed through with it," Davidson said.

While residents may have concerns about increased traffic in the neighborhood, Davidson said, the planning department does not foresee problems with the initial plan because the club already has a steady flow of members using its facilities.

Besides structural problems with the Golden Mile Ice Rink, on Old Frankstown Road, the owners filed for bankruptcy last year, avoiding a sheriff's sale of the property because of unpaid taxes to Monroeville and the Gateway School District.

A recreational task force in Monroeville met nearly a year ago with two developers interested in building an ice rink as part of a proposed municipal community complex, but Monroeville recreation director John Balicki has emphasized that it remains merely a proposal.

An ice rink is being built in New Kensington, but Diane Fitzhenry, municipal deputy clerk and vice president of the Penn Hills Hockey Club, noted that ice time in the eastern suburbs remains at a premium.

Sullivan noted that Olympic Swim & Health Club has operated an on-site natural gas well for 25 years to heat its building and pool.

"There's equipment we can buy that will allow us to use the gas well at the ice rink as well to keep the price down for teams and leagues," Sullivan said.

Specifics on the design will be introduced to the Planning Commission tomorrow. Sullivan said she is proposing four new locker rooms and two new restrooms.

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