By Jan Kurth
For the last two years, the Pittsburgh Penguins have used Shadyside’s Hunt Armory ice rink to introduce local youth to ice hockey. While the team is committed to continuing its programming for at least another year, it says that after that, it will walk away from the venue unless it can become the property’s owner.
On June 8, the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Board of Directors agreed that it was a good idea for the team to purchase the building and authorized its staff to enter into an option agreement to sell the armory to the Penguins for $2 million. The option will expire in May 2024 but can be extended.
“Our goal is still to make it permanent,” Grant Gittlen, director of operations and special projects for the Pittsburgh Penguins, told a meeting of approximately two dozen Shadyside residents on May 31.
“Between now and next season, it’s either going to be permanent — we will own the building — or there won’t be an ice rink. And that’s our obligation along with some other partners. It’s not the community’s obligation to make that a reality, but this third season will be the final temporary seasonal rink. And I don’t think that the public entities could be more clear about that.
“So everybody loves it; there’s no disagreement about the mission. It’s just when you’re getting into the third and fourth season, they want to see it either happen for real or move onto another use.”
Through a variety of popular programs — such as Learn to Play, Learn to Skate and Try Hockey for Free activities — kids are mastering basic skills, especially youth from demographic groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in the sport.
In addition, the rink provides practice space for the Chatham University hockey team, the Pittsburgh Warriors veterans team, students from Obama Academy and Sacred Heart Elementary School, and many others. Participation roughly doubled from the first year to the second.
While the residents at the meeting generally supported the creation of a permanent rink, some were concerned about the lack of skating opportunities for the general public, especially for figure skating. Others also asked for the team to improve its communications with users about where to park when using the rink at 324 Emerson St.
Jan Kurth writes for Print, a newspaper covering Pittsburgh’s East End communities.