The ice hockey competition portion of this week’s Keystone State Games Festival of Sports won’t be held in hosting Luzerne County because it does not have two rinks under one roof — a shortcoming that may be worth addressing, some say.
Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Janet Hall urged officials to consider the issue, saying the county is “losing some of the economic impact” of hosting the games.
Described as the state’s largest annual multi-sport competition for amateur athletes, the Keystone State Games will be held here in 2018 and 2019, but organizers haven’t decided if the competition will go somewhere else after that. The economic benefit for lodging establishments and other businesses in the host county is in the millions, officials have said.
Hall said organizers were interested in ice hockey competition at the Toyota SportsPlex at Coal Street Park, but it has only one rink.
“They didn’t want to have separate tournaments at two different locations because it would increase staffing and costs,” Hall said.
Instead, the ice hockey competition will be held at the York City Ice Arena, according to the Keystone Games website. York County previously hosted the games.
Jason Jarecki, general manager of the Toyota Sportsplex, said there is high demand for a second rink at his facility, even without the Keystone Games competition, but the challenge is identifying funding.
The cost of a second rink has been projected at $3 million to $5 million, Jarecki said.
“It’s grown to the point that it’s inevitable there must be two sheets, but I don’t want to guess if or when it will happen,” Jarecki said. “I could have used two sheets three or four years ago.”
The facility is “booked to capacity” from the end of September to the middle of March and still busy during the warmer months, he said.
The Toyota SportsPlex is the practice facility for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey team and hosts hockey leagues, figure skating, curling and public skating.
“I’m at a point now where I have to be very creative with scheduling,” Jarecki said, noting he does not want to shortchange public skating and youth skating lessons. “If we had a second rink, I could book it out no problem.”
Jarecki also stressed rinks can be designed for multipurpose use to allow festivals and other non-ice events as needed.
Tim Evans, chairman of the nonprofit Coal Street Redevelopment overseeing the Toyota SportsPlex, said there are “no immediate plans” to add a second rink.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.