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By Christopher Gizzi
CHESWICK, Pa. – Local ice rink operator puts plans into action of possible multiplex ice complex on Pittsburgh’s North Shore to facilitate expanding hockey programs while other rinks are up for sale in the Pittsburgh area.
Jim Lybarger, of Pittsburgh, is the general manager for the Blade Runners Ice Complexes in Harmarville, Warrendale, and Bethel Park, owned by Kratsa Properties. Lybarger took over as general manager in 2002 and is in charge of running the three complexes.
“There is truth to the rumor of a multiplex ice hockey rink. Allegheny County officials, the Pittsburgh Penguins and some of the owners at Kratsa Properties have all been meeting to go over plans for the multiplex,” said Lybarger.
“The reason they are looking at a new facility is because we’ve got all of these arenas for sale in the area and there is a need and a willingness to develop the North Shore,” Lybarger said. “By building a green facility, there are a number of grants lined up to include all parties wanting to make this project work.”
Lybarger said that there was a want and willingness to develop on the North Shore near the Casino and the stadiums, property which Kratsa Properties owns.
Another reason Lybarger pointed out for this multiplex, other than the green issue, is that the other ice hockey arenas that are up for sale could turn into something other than hockey arenas, and local teams would need a place to go.
“It would give the Penguins a place to practice and allow the other owners of hockey arenas in the area that have their buildings up for sale market their property for something other than ice hockey,” Lybarger said.
“If the deal is worked out properly, and the Penguins are certainly involved, there should be no problem or struggle to fill ice slots and operate at efficient capacity,” Lybarger said.
Blade Runners in Bethel Park and Warrendale are currently up for sale, along with other rinks such as Ice Connection on route 8, Airport Ice Arena off of the Parkway, Ice Castle off of Route 88, and Valley Sports Complex off of route 56 in Lower Burrell.
Blade Runners in Harmarville will stick around and won’t be sold unless it works out that the majority of the rinks in the area are sold and teams need a place to play.
The facility would accommodate inline hockey and ice hockey. There are more high school inline hockey teams than high school ice hockey teams, so a mixture of teams would be possible.
“All parties involved understand that inline is a marketable item in Pittsburgh and a mixture of division I ice hockey teams and it would facilitate a Junior A team as well, something that could help hockey in western PA and surrounding areas grow,” Lybarger said.
The rink would not only facilitate hockey. County officials and The Lemieux Group would surely incorporate some other sort of recreational use for the rink, like restaurants, a pro-shop, offices, etc.
The name of the rink would depend on who gets into running the rink and gets the rights for it.
As thought, traffic could be a large issue with the rink being built on the North Shore, so the other proposed area to build the rink would be by the intersection of Route 910 and Route 8.
“With the trains running from the southern part of the city into the city and the construction of rail lines and the underground subway into the city, traffic studies would be done to ensure shorter commute times before a location is selected,” said Lybarger.
“I think that with recent news to the failing of the Warrendale Blade Runners being sold is going to stall this project slightly, simply because you have rinks on the market. If someone steps up and buys, you’d have to see if they remain ice hockey rinks, and if they don’t, kids don’t have a place to play. When kids are involved, that is something that Kratsa Properties wants to incorporate and pay close attention to so hockey can keep going strong in the Pittsburgh Area,” Lybarger said.