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Pens, UPMC Making Plans for State-Of-The-Art Sports Complex in Cranberry

Township manager Jerry Andree says facility still is far from a done deal.

Plans are in the infancy stage for the Pittsburgh Penguins to partner with UPMC on a cutting edge performance center and practice rink in Cranberry.

"It's really going to be a one-of-the-kind in the country," said Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan.

The proposed 150,000 square foot complex would be located in the Cranberry Woods business park off Route 228—near the—and offer hockey-related training and injury treatment and prevention.

McMillan said the facility would be similar in nature to the UPMC sports performance complex on Pittsburgh's South Side, which is used by the Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh and includes sports medicine, practice and training facilities

With its attachment to an NHL team and the hospital, the hockey-focused complex would be the first of its kind, McMillan said. He added the team looked across the country to find a similar facility to serve as inspiration for the planned center and found none.

"The opportunity to be on the cutting edge is really exciting," he said. "There are endless possiblities. This isn’t just a practice rink. The performance center is what I think will really make it unique."

The training and rehabilitation services that will be offered at the facility should make it a top destination for athletes all over the country, as well as locally, he said. 

And you might just catch a glimpse of hockey superstars Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

McMillan said when the ice isn't available at the Consol Energy Center, the Penguins would use the new rink—and the community is welcome there too.

Development camps for Penguins hockey prospects, skating classes, public skating session and other programs geared towards teaching youngsters how to play hockey would be hosted at the center. The team-sponsored Pittsburgh Penguins Elite youth hockey program also would call the rink home.

"The public will use it much more than we will," McMillan said.

The goal is to have the facility open by the summer of 2014, said UPMC spokeswoman Susan Manko.

But first, the township must give its approval.

Cranberry manager Jerry Andree said having the sports complex in the community is far from a done deal. The developers will need to work with the township on the land development process, he said.

A land development application currently is approved for the property—owned by developer Don Rodgers—for a mixed-use development, Andree said. Dubbed The Summit of Cranberry Woods, the property was given a green light to include a combination of retail, office and residential development.

A sports complex would be a deviation from that land use, Andree said.

What that means is the developers would need to withdraw the current application for the land—which was approved March 2010—and seek new approval for the plans from the township.

“If they’re going to change it, it goes back to ground zero,” Andree said.

UPMC is in the preliminary stages of buying the land, Manko said. Rodgers could not immediately be reached for comment.

Cranberry officials also would have to determine if the facility is the right fit for the area under the Cranberry Plan, a long-term map of the township's growth, Andree said.

“We have to learn a lot more about the project,” he said.

McMillan said the team and UPMC plan to meet soon with the township staff to go over plans. Because the development still is conceptual, there are no renderings of the proposed facility, he said.

"We're in the early stages of this and we want to be good partners and we know and want to go through every step in that public processs," he said of meeting with the township. "We're really optimistic and excited about it."

UPMC would build and own the Cranberry center and the Pens would lease the ice rink and other facilities from the hospital, he said.

Manko told the Post-Gazette the UPMC sports medicine and training facilities within the complex would be tax exempt. The parts leased by the Penguins will be taxable, she said

While plans still are in the tentative stages, it was no surprise to Andree that the Penguins and UPMC would want to build a sports complex in the area. The Penguins currently lease practice space at the Iceoplex at Southpointe in Washington County.

“Everybody wants to be in Cranberry,” Andree said. “We love the enthusiasm to be here.”

McMillan echoed Andree's comments and said the team and UPMC were interested in building a facility north of the city because of the area's growing population. Last year,

"We know there is a heck of a lot of interest in youth hockey there and there is a demand for more ice," McMillan said.

Do you think the complex would be a good fit for Cranberry? Are you excited by the possibility that the Penguins would pratice in the area? What are your thoughts on a hockey-geared sports center? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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