Friday was the VIP Grand Opening of the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, where Mario himself dropped a ceremonial puck to commemorate the big day.
On Saturday, construction workers, Pens and UPMC employees and season ticket holders got a chance to go through.
And today, it was the community’s turn to see the new 185,000-square foot complex, located in Cranberry Township, in person.
The UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex hosted a open house, which required pre-registration, on Sunday for people to explore parts of the facility and test out the ice before it officially opens its doors to the general public on Monday.
“I think we can talk about the uniqueness of the facility and tell people it’s more than just a practice rink, but I don’t think people were really going to understand until they see it,” said Penguins vice president of communications Tom McMillan.
That’s exactly the situation Larry Broderick found himself in, as he couldn’t get over how large and impressive the complex was.
“This place has actually more than we even thought it would,” Broderick said. “This is truly first class and very, very elite.”
While watching his son Alex skate laps around the Pens practice rink in a Lemieux jersey, Broderick had a wave of nostalgia wash over him seeing his son wearing the sweater of the man the complex is named after.
“Like I’ve always said with growing up in Pittsburgh, hockey wouldn’t be here without Mario, and you can see with the sweater (Alex) has on right now, he truly does appreciate it,” Broderick said.
“He just came off the ice and said, ‘Dad, this is what real ice feels like,’ so to see what has happened so far – this is going push hockey to have even more popularity and even more elite players. That’s a huge testament to what one man (Lemieux) has done – and continues to do – for this city.”
The 185,000-square-foot complex has two entrances, one marked UPMC Sports Medicine and the other marked Pittsburgh Penguins.
In addition to having over 25,000 square feet of team space, the hockey side will be open to the public for weekly public skating sessions, power skating and skill development camps and clinics, adult hockey league, private and semi-private lessons and Learn to Play, Learn to Skate, Mite Development.
In addition, ice rentals will be available throughout the year for hockey, broomball, general skating or fundraising events. More information can be found on the complex's website
It contains two full-size hockey rinks with approximately 1,500 total seats, 14 locker rooms and 1,500 square feet of hockey skills training space with a RapidShot system, three RapidHands training stations, and a resistance skating lane made of synthetic ice.
Not to mention a lobby that contains a PensGear store, a giant fireplace and a concession area called “The Training Table” where people can purchase healthy food and beverages.
The other side has 54,000 square feet of UPMC clinical space that contains 24 patient rooms, a physical therapy room that overlooks the Pens practice rink, aquatic therapy and on-site MRI and x-ray imaging.
“It’s going to put Pittsburgh and the surrounding area over the top, as far as hockey goes,” said Pens season-ticket holder Terry Slupe said after stepping off the ice following a quick skate.
“Kids are going to get more involved with these facilities like this for people to come and use. Being associated with the Penguins and UPMC, the sports medicine side, it’s a win-win, and to have this place look like this – unbelievable.”
With the official opening of the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, it marks the end of the Pens’ time at the Iceoplex at Southpointe, where they had practiced since the rink opened on May 20, 1995.
The Martello family – mother Jan, son Loren and daughter Lyndsey – played in hockey leagues at Southpointe dating back to their early childhood, so it’s got a special place in their heart.
But they know that the move to the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex will be better in the long run not only for the Pens players, but for the continued growth of hockey in western Pennsylvania.
“With this facility here, you have everything top of the line,” Lyndsey Martello-Zanolli said. “You feel safer here and have state-of-the-art medicine.”
Season ticket holders for the last three seasons, the Martellos are a true hockey family. Knowing what the facility will do for the local hockey community and how it will make western Pennsylvania a hotbed for elite hockey talent is what really has the family excited, especially Loren.
“You know you’re going to develop more as a player here than you would have 20 years ago,” he said. “My sister and I played hockey growing up, so we know the advantages this place is going to have for hockey players and even for the average fans.”
Nurturing and developing elite talent at the youth and professional level while also keeping them safe on and off the ice is the selling point for most parents. Knowing that the best doctors, trainers and coaches in the area will all be under the same roof will continue to attract top talent.
“That’s most important of all to us,” Jan said. “Hockey is No. 1 for our entire family. Being a parent and having kids play when they were little, this is like the cream of the crop, because you worry at the same time that you enjoy. You don’t have to worry here. It’s all top-of-the-line.”