The Wesley Chapel District Park (WCDP) on Boyette Rd. may not be as large as the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus a few miles to its south (see pgs. 8-10), but its own little mini-sports campus is rounding into shape nicely.
The latest addition is a new Tampa Bay Lightning-sponsored street, or ball, hockey rink, which officially opened a few days before Christmas. It was constructed just a few steps away from WCDP’s new 17,800-sq.-ft. indoor basketball facility, which broke ground in July and is expected to open by late summer 2021.
“It’s nice to see the park growing and offering more and more opportunities for kids to play different sports,” said District 2 commissioner Mike Moore, who has coached a variety of youth teams at WCDP, but the only basketball and volleyball offered at the park has previously been only outdoors.
In a public-private partnership between the Stanley Cup champion Lighting and Pasco County, two street hockey rinks were built in Pasco — one in Holiday, at the J. Ben Harrill Recreation Center, and the other at WCDP.
The virtually-held ribbon-cutting ceremony for the rinks were held in Holiday and were attended by Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Steve Griggs, former Lightning general manager and 2004 Stanley Cup Champion Jay Feaster, former Lightning defenseman Jassen Cullimore and Stanley Cup captain Dave Andreychuk.
“We are very proud to open these two rinks today as part of our pledge to build 10 ball hockey rinks across the Tampa Bay area,” said Griggs. “These two rinks that we opened will give local youth the opportunity to get outside and play the great game of hockey. The Lightning would like to thank Pasco County for their enthusiasm and support in helping us make this a reality for everyone in Pasco County.”
The other rinks the Lightning have opened in the Tampa Bay area are in Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Polk counties. They are of the Lightning’s Build The Thunder 2.0 and Connect the Thunder outreach programs. In 2015, through the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) Industry Growth Fund, the Lightning announced a $6 million grass roots hockey development initiative to be delivered to young people throughout the Bay area.
The NHL club finalized its agreement to build the two rinks in Pasco County last January.
Wesley Chapel already has the popular AdventHealth Center Ice — the largest indoor ice skating/hockey facility south of New York in the United States — so Pasco County was an ideal location, says Josh Dreith, the Lightning’s community manager.
“I love Pasco County,” he said. “There is a ton of Lightning fans in Pasco, and a ton of engaged kids as well.”
The county supplied the land and built the pads the rink is built on, and the Lightning built the actual rink, which is 120 feet long by 60 feet wide, has a full dasher-board system and a scoreboard. The Lightning also is providing the equipment, and will host a series of clinics to get the program going.
The county and Lightning will then coordinate actual league play, which could begin as early as March 2021, but will be dictated by Covid-19 conditions. The rink also will offer plenty of free play time to the public.
For more information, visit LightningMadeHockey.com.