Pasco County and the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation plan to light the lamp at outdoor street hockey rinks in Holiday and Wesley Chapel.
In a proposal first reported by the Tampa Bay Times in May 2019, the county and the hockey team are partnering on building rinks at two Pasco locations. What hadn’t been determined was the precise location of the facilities, beyond Pasco officials’ commitment to put a rink on each side of the county.
On Tuesday, Pasco County commissioners approved a partnership agreement with the NHL team’s foundation to put the rinks at the J. Ben Harrill Recreation Complex in Holiday and at the Wesley Chapel District Park.
“”The thought is, it’s a really good opportunity for Holiday, in a community that may not have as many opportunities,’’ said Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, whose district includes Holiday.
Under the agreement, Pasco will pay for the underlying concrete pads, while the Lightning Foundation pays to build the rinks and provides accessories. The county budgeted $240,000 for the project.
Jay Feaster, vice president of community hockey development for the Lightning, said the team’s contribution totaled about $120,000 per rink for fencing, dasher boards, nets, penalty boxes, benches and scoreboards. The team also donates 40 hockey sticks, a case of balls, goalie gear and the reversible pinnies for players to wear.
The team’s Build the Thunder 2.0 effort calls for locating 10 street hockey rinks in the region. Rinks already opened in Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County and in Oldsmar. Rinks in Ruskin and Brandon are completed, but have not yet had grand openings, said Bill Wickett, the team’s executive vice president for communications..
The Lightning already donated 106,000 sticks and balls to children at 503 schools over the past four years. Building the rinks is the second phase of what the team calls "connect the thunder'' to ensure youngsters have a place to continue playing street hockey.
The Lightning initially pitched the rink proposal to Starkey, whose husband, Trey, sits with Wickett on the board of the nonprofit Positive Coaching Alliance. Commissioner Starkey lauded the team for agreeing to build two rinks in Pasco.
Preliminary plans show the county placing the rinks adjacent to the existing tennis courts at the park in Holiday and slightly northeast of the baseball and softball diamonds at the 143-acre Wesley Chapel District Park. The rink would adjoin a recreation center the county plans to build at the Wesley Chapel park.
The county expects to seek bids for the concrete pads in February. Barring unforeseen delays, the projects could be completed by August.
"Obviously any additional opportunities for our children to participate in sports, and especially being able to learn a new sport, is a positive,'' said Commission Chairman Mike Moore. "... This is an entry point for a lot of kids.''