MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) – Shocked, devastated, gutted—those are some of the emotions that hockey players and parents had to the announcement that the Morgantown Ice Arena will be temporarily closing for repairs from March 26 through August of 2024.
Over the previous few days, the hockey community has swarmed to speak at the Morgantown City Council meeting and Monongalia County Commission meeting and even had a gathering in front of the Monongalia County Courthouse.
The facility is the only ice rink in the region, which means families will have to travel to Pittsburgh, Wheeling or elsewhere to be able to play hockey, figure skate or do any other on-ice activity.
“Some kids will be able to go to Pittsburgh, other kids won’t be able to, and some kids won’t be able to afford it,” Morgantown Hockey Association President Frank Oliverio said. “It’s a drain academically, it’s a drain financially and it’s a drain physically.”
“We want to make sure that everyone is aware of how important this ice rink is to us and the community and we really need it to be here,” local hockey mother Sherry White said. From a hockey side, around 250 kids that travel from 12 different counties and 3 different states will be impacted by the closure.
The Morgantown Board of Parks and Recreation (BOPARC) Executive Director Melissa Wiles told 12 News that the facility expected to lose some time during seasons since the project’s original concept design back in 2017. Oliverio said that on a conference call on Dec. 29, that they would only lose a third to a half of a season.
Things eventually changed to a continuous construction period as opposed to a phased plan.
Reasons why a continuous construction period was chosen according to Wiles:
- They would have had a restricted season for 2023-2024 that would’ve only projected 14-18 weeks of service.
- The contractor would be working on/demolishing the roofing and siding near a post-replaced, and $5 million, ice slab.
- They were worried about losing qualified seasonal staff due the restricted season.
- The Morgantown Ice Arena would’ve experienced customer flow issues.
- They believed that there would be additional project costs that wouldn’t result in permanent attributes to the project itself or provide programmatic lasting additions to the community.
Parents that gathered at the courthouse offered different suggestions compared to shutting the 1978 facility down for almost a year and a half.
They suggested a delayed closure and staggered closures so those who utilize the facility could still do so with scheduled closures. Some in attendance also said they would like to see BOPARC build a whole new ice arena and not close the current one until a new one could be built.
Parents in the hockey community said they could see adding another hockey arena as an opportunity to bring in tournaments to the area and grow the sport.
Oliverio fears that the ice-time hiatus will have repercussions that stretch further than a little over a year construction project.
“I want to work with them (BOPARC). We all want to work with them, but at this point, we are also disappointed that we’ve gotten to this point where all of our kids have to be out here in the rain basically picketing to save not only a hockey season but a hockey generation in Morgantown,” Oliverio said.
Not just hockey players will be affected, but other on-ice activities. High school hockey players, like Sierra Mazey, are concerned that it will erase most of or end their careers.
“It’s the last chance I’m going to get to play hockey because after this, I don’t know if I’m going to make it to collegiate level, so if I miss my high school season, then my hockey career is pretty much over,” Mazey said.
Even those that have a limited amount of time left want to make sure youth players can still keep their hockey dreams and enjoyment alive.
“Just please keep it open, it’s going to kill out a lot of dreams for a lot of kids, especially coming from someone who was that kid 10 years ago,” WVU Club Hockey player and local hockey player Adonté Shepard said.
The total project is expected to cost from $10.4 million to $11.5 million. BOPARC has received some funding for the project through Monongalia County’s Parks and Recreation Levy and a portion of the sales tax in the city.
BOPARC added in its statement that additional questions should be directed to email@example.com, RE: Ice Arena Improvement Project.