Pasco County and the Lightning Foundation have partnered on a project that will result in two street hockey rinks in the county, including one in Wesley Chapel.
The Pasco County Commission approved the agreement at its Jan. 7 meeting.
As part of the deal, the county will spend an estimated $240,000 to build concrete pads and associated infrastructure, which will be turned into street hockey rinks, complete with flashboards, scoreboards, scorers’ tables, and penalty boxes.
The Lightning Foundation will establish street hockey programming, including league play and tournaments. And, it will donate two complete sets of street hockey gear, including 80 sticks, two cases of balls, four goal nets, four youth sets of protective goalie gear, four adult size sets of protected goal gear and 80 reversible scrimmage vests, to be kept at the rinks.
One rink will be built at the Wesley Chapel District Park, at 7727 Boyette Road, and the other at the J. Ben Harrill Recreation Complex, at 2830 Gulf Trace Blvd., in Holiday.
Both locations are large enough to accommodate the outdoor street hockey rinks.
Jay Feaster, vice president of Community Hockey Development, told commissioners the street hockey rinks fit into an overall “Build the Thunder” effort.
Feaster said that the National Hockey League, the National Hockey League Players Association and Lightning owner Jeff Vinik are involved in the program.
Over a five-year period, “we committed to donate 100,000 Lightning logo street hockey sticks and balls to children within the five contiguous county area of Amalie Arena,” Feaster said.
That commitment also included visiting 500 schools during that period and donating “500 complete sets of street hockey gear, so the schools could continue to have children playing long after we were gone.
“This is the start of that fifth year. We have thus far donated 106,000-plus Lightning logo sticks and balls to 503 schools within the five-county area.
“About three years ago, we realized that after we distributed all of those sticks and balls that we had a place that those youngsters to play,” Feaster said.
Ten outdoor street hockey rinks are planned.
“We want to proceed to actually build two of those street hockey rinks here in Pasco,” Feaster told commissioners. The rinks will be 60 feet by 120 feet, and are expected to be completed by Aug. 30.
The Lightning Foundation also will provide a public awareness campaign and promote the scheduled clinics and league play opportunities.
It also will present street hockey clinics at the rinks once per quarter using Tampa Bay Lightning alumni and street team members.
And, it will invite the rinks’ street hockey champions to participate in a Tournament of Champions sponsored by the Lightning Foundation.
The Lightning Foundation also will have the sole right to sell sponsorship rights in connection with the dashboard, scoreboard, signs, etc.
“We’re excited about it,” Feaster said.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey is enthusiastic, too.
“I just can’t tell you how excited our citizens are, and our kids, and I’m really looking forward to this,” Starkey said.
Commissioner Jack Mariano praised the Lightning’s community contributions.
“What you’ve done has really elevated the whole Tampa Bay region,” Mariano said.
Commissioner Ron Oakley marveled at the transformation regarding hockey in the region.
“I grew up in this area. We didn’t have hockey. That was a northern sport,” Oakley said.
Developing future hockey players requires early exposure to the game, Oakley said.
“That’s the way you get ‘em started, you’ve got to start young,” Oakley said.
Published January 22, 2020