Apr. 15—WILKES-BARRE — The new hockey rink to be built at the Toyota SportsPlex will have neither ice nor require skates.
Ground was broken Thursday for the dek hockey rink at the complex on Coal Street that's the training facility for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey team.
WBS Penguins CEO Jeff Barrett was on hand in February 2020 to announce the project that, like many others planned at the time, was delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Barrett joined with others including Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown, state Sen. John Yudichak, I-Swoyersville, Brian Rinker of Highmark and Jim Britt of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation for Thursday's ceremonial groundbreaking.
"People who are unfamiliar often ask, 'What is dek hockey?' We like to say it's ice hockey on sneakers, so anyone can play," Barrett said. "It's a cost-effective way to get children and adults off the couch and into an organized athletic activity."
The standalone outdoor rink will complement the hockey and other programs at the complex, Barrett added.
Last year a Request for Proposal was issued for the construction manager, with the hope of seeing the project completed in 2021. The new expected completion date is by the end of this summer.
The project received a $250,000 tourism grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Highmark, the Pittsburgh-based health insurance company with an office in Wilkes-Barre, and the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation each contributed $40,000.
Britt, executive director of the Foundation and an alumnus of King's College, remarked the complex was different from when he played here years ago. He pointed out the Wilkes-Barre dek rink will be the first in the region with 15 others associated with the Foundation located in the western part of the state.
"We use two phrases a lot [at the Foundation]. We talk about 'harnessing the power of hockey' and 'growing with the game'. And what that means is that we are focused on helping kids use the game of hockey as a vehicle to live healthier, more active lives; improve their education; and grow up to be happy, healthy adults," Britt said.
Rinker, market president for the Eastern Pennsylvania region of Highmark Inc. added the rink ties into the company's business.
"This is about fitness and focusing on kids. Hopefully we can get families and kids together and get them physically active so they can have healthy and productive lives," Rinker said. "That's a big part of what Highmark stands for."
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.