TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Over the last four years, the Tampa Bay Lightning has distrbuted more than 100,000 street hockey sticks and balls, 450 sets of gear and visited 450 schools. The team wants young fans to be exposed to the sport of hockey, so the only natural next step is to build more rinks.
"We don't have enough ice rinks in the greater Tampa market," said Jay Feaster, the team's Vice President of Community Hockey Development. "But, we do have an abundance of beautiful weather and we have plenty of concrete, and outdoor flat facilities where you can play ball hockey, street hockey."
The Bolts intend to build 10 outdoor rinks by June 2020, using grant money from the NHL and the NHL Player's Association. In Manatee county, one of those rinks will open by the end of this month. Another will be built in Oldsmar, near the city's BMX park, and there is hope for two in Pasco near the AdventHealth Center Ice complex.
"I think it's a tremendous opportunity to help educate the public on hockey through their community development program," said Keith Wiley, Pasco County's director of parks. "You know, we're asked to provide this level of programming, but without the facilities, you can't make that happen."
That's where the Lightning come in. They'll put in over $100,000 for each of the rinks built. The only thing a county or municipality would be responsible for is the rink, a 60 by 120 foot concrete slab.
"They're the ones who would have to put the concrete slab down," explained Feaster. "I can tell you that we're working with some municipalities where the concrete slab already exists."
In Pasco County, the addition of hockey rinks would diversify its programming. It would be an addition baseball, softball and lacrosse.
"I think we need to figure out what the next steps are from contractual obligations, physical location, funding partnerships, things of that nature," Wiley said.
Pasco County is an ideal location for the outdoor rinks to be built, because of the ice rinks nearby.
"If you try outside and you play ball hockey, and then you say, 'maybe I'd like to learn how to ice skate,' all of those programs exist," said Feaster. "They can take you right from rec hockey, through travel hockey, so that's what makes it attractive to us."
The rinks will help create hockey stars of the future, right in our neck of the woods.