PASCO COUNTY, Fla.- Officials from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pasco County held ribbon cutting ceremonies last week for two new public outdoor ball hockey rinks, at the J. Ben Harrill Recreation Center in Holiday and Wesley Chapel District Park. The rinks are part of 10 that are being constructed throughout the Bay Area as part of the Lightning’s Build the Thunder 2.0 and Connect the Thunder program.
“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,” Lightning CEO Steve Griggs said upon making the announcement. “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 virtually held ribbon cutting ceremonies last week were attended by Lightning CEO Steve Griggs and former Lightning general manager and 2004 Stanley Cup Champion Jay Feaster.
“This is another unique sport for kids to be involved in and learn all the good, life lessons you learn when you’re a part of a team,” said Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey. “These rinks are a real value to the county and to the communities we serve.”
On October 25, 2017, the Lightning announced its plan to build 10 outdoor ball hockey rinks across the five-county footprint of Tampa Bay by the year 2020. That included plans for a centralized Lightning Made Training Center which is already open next to Power Pole Arena, Home of Xtra Ice in Tampa, that serves as the headquarters of the Lightning’s Community Hockey Department.
These new rinks are designed to bring the game into local communities, allowing Tampa Bay’s new young hockey players a place to train, whether it is at the grass roots level or in organized leagues and tournaments. The rinks are approximately 120 x 60 feet and include a full dasher-board system.
In September 2015, through the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Hockey League Players Association’s (NHLPA) Industry Growth Fund, the Lightning announced a $6 million grass roots hockey development initiative to be delivered to young people in Tampa Bay.
The NHL and NHLPA have lauded the Lightning’s community hockey development efforts under the guidance of 2004 Stanley Cup Champion general manager Jay Feaster, encouraging teams across the entire 31-team league to develop similar programing aimed at growing the game and its fan base at the grass roots level.