The Pittsburgh Penguins are not only making big moves on the ice but also in their community. The Hunt Armory Ice Rink just wrapped up its first season, and the Penguins should be proud of the positive impact they had on so many people.
The city of Pittsburgh took ownership of the Hunt Armory Building about 10 years ago, and since then, they have been trying to figure out a way to use it to benefit the community. Many different ideas were pitched, but the overwhelming response from the city was an indoor hockey rink. In the early part of last year, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association awarded the Penguins with a grant to build the ice rink inside Hunt Armory.
The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation was excited to get this project off the ground, but they were met by some hesitation from the community. Jim Britt, executive director of the foundation, said it was important to make the residents of the community understand this would be a positive change. “We wanted to show the residents it would be an asset to the community.” The Foundation also made it clear that the ice rink would be a temporary program. “We went in loud and clear with the residents that this was a pilot program,” Britt said.
The city of Pittsburgh and the Urban Redevelopment Authority partnered with its hometown hockey team on the project, but all installation and operation costs were covered by the team. The foundation gained a temporary occupancy permit, which allowed them to operate the rink from Nov. 26 to Feb. 28. In that time, they saw over 15,000 people from the local community participate in the programs offered at the rink.
Programs at Hunt Armory Ice Rink
The Penguins’ goal in opening the ice rink was to bring access to the game of hockey to a broad, diverse population. Britt wanted to take away some of the obstacles that can come with getting involved in the game of hockey. “Ice hockey is expensive. It’s not like football, where all you really need is a ball and a field. You need an ice rink. Our goal was to knock some of these hurtles down,” The ice rink offered several Try Hockey for Free events, where local residents simply had to sign up for the event and show up, and the Penguins took care of giving them the proper equipment and instruction in the basics of the game.
The Penguins also saw a huge amount of participation from Pittsburgh public schools. They had over 700 participants in the first weekend of the rink being open from the local public schools alone. Britt said the foundation is currently in talks about partnering with local public schools for growing out the programs for next season.
The Penguins offered a Learn to Skate Program for children ages four to 10 that taught them the basic skills of ice skating. They also offered a program called Little Penguins Learn to Play Hockey, which was a six to eight-week program for children ages five to 10 to teach them the basic skills of hockey. It’s the hope of the Penguins that these same kids will come back next season and take part in more advanced programs and possibly become future hockey stars.
Future Plans at Hunt Armory Ice Rink
Britt says the foundation is already thinking ahead to next season and wants to hear from the community. “We want feedback, and so far it’s been an overwhelmingly positive response. We are very soon hoping to hear if we can repeat the process.” If the Penguins are back next season at the Hunt Armory, they would like to try and extend the season out a little bit longer. The positive response from local residents has given the foundation hope that they will be able to return next season and continue to make a difference both in their community and in the game of hockey.