Perhaps someday a future hockey star will be able to say he or she first learned to play hockey on the streets of Wesley Chapel and Holiday.
Pasco County has added to its assorted sports and recreational profile with yet another outdoor activity in check — street hockey.
Two public outdoor ball hockey rinks are now available for use at J. Ben Harrill Recreation Complex in Holiday and Wesley Chapel District Park, 7727 Boyette Road in Wesley Chapel.
The concrete rinks — approximately 60 feet by 120 feet, with a full dasher-board system — are part of a public-private partnership between the county and the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Designed with the idea of growing the game of hockey throughout local communities, the rinks will allow young hockey players in the area a place to train, whether it’s the grass roots level or in organized leagues and tournaments.
A virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony of the rinks was held Dec. 10, with several representatives on hand from both the county and Lightning, respectively.
“We are very proud to open these two rinks today as part of our pledge to build 10 ball hockey rinks across the Tampa Bay area,” Lightning CEO Steve Griggs said. “These two rinks that we opened will give local youth the opportunity to get outside and play the great game of hockey. The Lightning would like to thank Pasco County for their enthusiasm and support in helping us make this a reality for everyone in Pasco County.”
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey tabbed the rinks “just one more wonderful thing that we’re bringing to Pasco County, to give our residents a really high quality of life.”
“This is another unique sport for kids to be involved in and learn all the good, life lessons you learn when you’re a part of a team,” Starkey said. “These rinks are a real value to the county and to the communities we serve.”
She also noted: “When (the Lightning) mentioned that they were going to put one (rink) in, knowing how large our county is and how much need that we have here, I asked them if they’d be kind enough to put in two.”
Count former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk among those “super, super excited” to witness outdoor ball hockey ramping up in Pasco.
“This place will be loaded with kids every night,” said Andreychuk, who serves as the franchise’s vice president of corporate and senior affairs. “As we know, having kids, giving them an activity, something to do, is a great thing.”
Lightning community hockey manager Josh Dreith, too, figures the rinks will be a score on both the east and west sides of Pasco: “I love Pasco County. There’s a ton of Lightning fans in Pasco County, and there’s a ton of engaged kids, as well.”
The Holiday and Wesley Chapel locations are part of 10 rinks being funded and constructed in the five-county Tampa Bay area — via a $6 million grassroots hockey development initiative from the Lightning’s Build the Thunder 2.0 and Connect the Thunder programs, and the NHL’s Industry Growth Fund. The other rinks are situated in Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Polk counties, respectively.
The rinks in Pasco are available upon request for open play now. There’s hope to have league play begin by March, depending on the COVID-19 situation, officials say.
Programming at the new rinks will eventually include:
- Clinics run by Lightning alumni
- Ball hockey leagues
- Adult ball hockey
- Ball hockey lessons
All essential equipment for teams playing ball hockey will be provided by the Lightning, including hockey sticks, balls and goalie protective equipment. Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources will manage all programming and maintenance of the rinks.
Keith Wiley, the county’s parks department director, explained: “We’re going to have a combination of free play, obviously open to the public. And then, in coordination with the Lightning, we will be working on actual league play, where we can create some structured programming, depending on (the) season.”
With the partnership, the county contributed property and $240,000 toward the cost of the underlying concrete pads at the two outdoor rinks. From there, the Lightning have built out the remainder of the infrastructure, with dasher boards, scoreboards, penalty boxes, goalie nets, and more.
Engineering design on the rinks began in February. Construction began in August with the county’s portion of the work completed in late October.
Contracting through the Lightning, EnvironBuild LLC finished the dasher boards and scoreboards on Dec. 10.
Some minor improvements do remain, such as sheds, bleachers, and scoreboard electrical connections. Those touches are expected to be complete around March or so.
Published January 06, 2021