BURGETTSTOWN - A group of local grandmothers are working to build a synthetic ice hockey rink and recreational facility - and they need $3.5 million to do it.
The group, which has incorporated under the name Grams With Attitude and is seeking nonprofit status, was formed by Ann Marie Quader and Vickie Rush, and they have been joined by Luanne Hughes, all of Burgettstown. The group also has formed a partnership with the Burgettstown Area Senior Center.
The "grams" plan to build a hockey rink, playground, splash park, walking track and skate rental/concessions/comfort facility with rental meeting and party rooms. They pledged to fund the project entirely through private donations, fundraisers and by selling advertising in the rink area and the naming rights to the rink - without requesting funding through any governmental agency.
GRAMS WITH ATTITUDE — Grams With Attitude, including, from left, Luanne Hughes, Vickie Rush and Ann Marie Quader, are working together to build an ice hockey and recreational facility adjacent to state Route 18 in Smith Township. -- Summer Wallace-Minger
"We do have a lot of interest," said Hughes, adding the group had been meeting with potential donors interested in the project. "Part of it (the funding) will come from selling the naming rights."
Quader added that, "from the beginning, we wanted to do this with private funding."
Already on board, local businessman Ray Bologna promised to donate 4.7 acres on state Route 18 adjacent to Blue Devil Distributors. Bologna also has been an important source for advice and mentoring, the group said.
Future Skate in Verona will manufacture the synthetic ice surface, an interlocking oil-infused polymer plastic surface which doesn't require the maintenance of a traditional ice surface. The surface is reversible and guaranteed for 10 years. The all-weather rink will include dasher boards, benches, penalty boxes and bleacher seating and will be built to U.S. Hockey specifications, making it the first such regulation synthetic rink in the country. Although it is an outdoor rink, the group is now discussing building a roof over the rink surface to protect it in inclement weather.
The grams hope the rink will be utilized by youth hockey players throughout the Tri-State Area, noting the location, just off U.S. Route 22, is convenient for players and teams from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
Once the rink is built, the group hopes to offer low-cost skating, a year-round practice facility for youth hockey players and, eventually, begin a youth hockey league, which they plan to call the Burgettstown Area Hockey Association.
Rush said it is an optimal time to build a rink and a league, pointing to the success and popularity of the Pittsburgh Penguins. She added the group has approached a Penguins representative for advice and guidance in implementing the project.
"We are going to try to do hockey and skating lessons," she said.
J.T. Sauer and Associates Sports recently completed initial designs for the park and the concessions facility, which is designed to resemble a winter lodge, complete with a porch and great room with a fireplace.
"We wanted to go with a winter theme," said Rush, adding Sauer and Associates worked closely with the group and were generous with their time and resources.
In addition to having the plans finished, the group has been visiting local township supervisors' meetings and giving them an overview of the organization and its goals.
"We want to keep the doors open for discussion and involvement," said Hughes. "We are hoping to get feedback."
The group also plans to meet with area school district officials in the same capacity.
Grams With Attitude also will be participating in Petrucci's IGA's anniversary celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, where they will be giving out backpacks and school supplies on a first-come, first-served basis and distributing information and answering questions about the rink project. The group also will hold a car wash fundraiser at the same time. Also, a car wash fundraiser will be held all day Sunday at the senior center.
Recently, the group and Future Skate had the surface available during Burgettstown Community Day Aug. 9 at the Washington Wild Things baseball game, and the grams plan to hold additional "free skates" so area residents can examine and skate on the surface themselves. The dates will be announced as they are scheduled.
"We want to get the word out and make sure we get accurate information out there about the project," said Rush.
For information, visit the Future Skate website at www.futureskate.net/community-outreach or the Facebook page by searching "Burgettstown rink."
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)