BURGETTSTOWN, Pa. - Their partnership started with a chance meeting in a local park, and it has blossomed into an effort to build a half-million-dollar hockey facility in the borough.
Vickie Rush and Borough Mayor Anna Marie Quader's goal is to construct an all-weather hockey rink, complete with dasher boards, benches, penalty boxes and bleacher seating; a concession stand and comfort station; a playground area; and a splash park. Rush and Quader co-founded Grams With Attitude as a nonprofit organization through which they will fundraise.
Ultimately, the two want to see a children's hockey league based at the facility, drawing players from throughout the Tri-State area.
"We want to give the teenagers something to do," said Rush. "There's a lot of things for the younger kids to do, but not as much for the older kids, and we want to change that."
The pair estimates they need approximately $300,000 to $500,000 to build the facilities. They also are mulling putting a small gym on the concession stand's second floor. The pair, who met two years ago, said they also would like the facility to be a summer lunch program site some day.
"It's all about providing low-cost skating to the kids in the area," said Quader. "We want to charge as little as possible to make sure as many kids as possible have access to it."
The group is currently completing the paperwork to obtain 501(c)3 nonprofit status, but has already enlisted the help of local businessman Ray Bologna, who has pledged to donate 4.7 acres on state Route 18 adjacent to Blue Devil Distributors to the facility and has offered advice and mentoring to the two "grams."
"Ray said to go big and to go first-class, so that's what we're doing," said Quader.
The group is working with Future Skate in Verona to obtain a synthetic ice surface, which doesn't require freezing or the maintenance of a traditional ice surface. Only hockey skates can be used on the surface, because figure skate toe picks would damage it.
"All you need to do is power wash it," said Rush. "Each side is guaranteed for 10 years and they're completely reversible."
Rush spotted the synthetic ice while attending a local home-and-garden show, and Quader saw it featured on a local newscast. Although they discovered the surface independently, when they compared notes, they began planning.
Both are hockey fans - Quader's family were long-time Pittsburgh Penguins season ticket-holders, and Rush's children were all involved in playing dek hockey.
Rush's efforts also are in memory of her son, Donnie Diehl, who died young in an accident. Donnie had been a dek hockey goalie, and Rush has kept his glove as a momento.
"It was his passion," she said. "He loved it."
J.T. Sauer and Associates has drawn up plans for the facility, and the group has recruited fundraising allies in the Burgettstown Area Senior Center and Luanne's School of Dance. The group is still planning their first fundraiser, and details will be announced as they become available.
Quader and Rush also have started community outreach efforts, including contacting Burgettstown Area Schools.
The two acknowledged they have a long way to go - first, the task of building a community rink, then recruiting coaches, referees and players, a rink manager and concession workers, and forming one team, let alone a league.
"We're hoping local teams will come to get ice time, once it's built, and it will go from there," said Rush, who noted most Burgettstown hockey players travel to the Airport Ice Arena in Moon Township.
In order to realize their dream of a children's league, Quader and Rush said they need volunteer help, and encourage anyone interested in seeing the facility become a reality to contact them about volunteering and fundraising.
To introduce the community to the synthetic surface, the group will be hosting a free luau-themed skating party during Community Days, which begin at 6 p.m. Friday. Aloha Delights will provide Hawaiian-inspired food, and those attending will be able to skate free at a rink that Future Skate will set up behind the senior center.
Hockey skates will be available for loan, and residents are encouraged to visit and see the surface for themselves. The rink will be open throughout Community Days Friday evening and Saturday.
For information on Grams With Attitude and the community rink effort, visit Future Skate's website at futureskate.net/Community-Outreach.html or visit the Facebook page by searching "Burgettstown Synthetic Ice Rink."
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)