Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Big demand for kid's hockey in Tampa Bay, thanks to Lightning

Youth hockey is exploding in Tampa Bay, thanks in huge part to the Lightning’s success in the playoffs.

Despite Tuesday’s disappointing loss to the Pittsburg Penguins, kids are watching the games with their parents and they’re taking a big interest in the sport. The challenge for parents: Finding a place to sign their kids up.

Right now several ice arenas have waiting lists for hockey teams to play, and some adult leagues are playing as late as 10 p.m. because of high demand for the ice.

Now, that's all about to change.

Wednesday morning community members in Wesley Chapel will get their first look inside the construction on a new $20-million-dollar ice arena.

By this fall, the Florida Hospital Center Ice Arena will have a total of 5 rinks: one Olympic sized, three NHL sized and a kid-sized rink.

Across the bay, an expansion project inside Clearwater Ice Arena will add another, new NHL sized rink.

Thursday morning, crews will pour the concrete for the new rink, which will help the center host more hockey and figure skating teams, as well as community open ice for anyone to come out and strap on a pair of skates. Grand opening for the new second rink in Clearwater will be on August 20th.

Gordie Zimmerman is a hockey player, and coach and he's also instilled the love of hockey in his sons. He's the lead man behind the new arena in Pasco County, “Right now there are league teams wanting to play but they can’t find the ice space to make it happen. We are anxious to get more kids and adults on skates and especially girls and women. We’ve seen a big demand for more female hockey teams,” he explained.

The Tampa Bay Lightning players will also play a big role in the new multi-million dollar ice complexes.

The Lightning are launching a program that will pour more than 6 million bucks into youth hockey programs over the next five years.

"Build the Thunder" is helping to put more hockey equipment, high school programs, and high-class coaches into your child's school.

Lightning owner Jeff Vinick is making big investments into girls hockey too. Vinick has been going into all girl schools like Ferrell Girls Preparatory Academy in Tampa to face off against the ladies in a game of floor hockey.

Interest is already high. Get this: at both new ice arenas under construction in Clearwater and Wesley Chapel, the owners have seen an equal split between the number of boy’s and girl’s hockey leagues wanting to play.

If you’d like to check out the Florida Hospital Center Ice Arena construction site in Wesley Chapel, you can take a hard hat tour Wednesday from 10 - 11 a.m. Just show up to the site at 3173 Cypress Ridge Blvd.

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