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Morgantown hockey community voices displeasure with ice arena plan

MORGANTOWN — What happens when 100 hockey players, parents, coaches and supporters turn up to a Morgantown City Council meeting in a room with a 40-person capacity?

They have to take shifts.

That’s just what they did Tuesday night as the Morgantown hockey community showed up in force to voice its displeasure with recent news that the Morgantown Ice Arena will be shuttered for some 16 months starting in late March in order to undergo a complete renovation estimated at $10.4 million to $11.5 million.

BOPARC has long held that it intended to conduct the project without canceling a season of ice time. Executive Director Melissa Wiles recently conceded it’s not possible due to the uncertainty of lead times for various project components.  

A total of 33 speakers addressed council Tuesday, most then leaving to allow room for individuals waiting outside on the courthouse square.

Among that number were several youth hockey players with the Morgantown Blades, like Finnley Satake who asked one of the reoccurring questions of the night.

“Are we still going to be able to play somewhere in Morgantown?”

Morgantown Mayor, and BOPARC Board member Jenny Selin said BOPARC is working on that.

“All the different possible solutions are being looked at. … As solutions are being developed, they’ll be conveyed, but for right now there’s not a solution that’s been developed. But it is certain or fairly certain that the rink will need to shut down in order to be renovated,” she said. “It’s just a very, very difficult situation and we’ll work on developing some solutions.” 

Others expressed frustration that they read about the impending closure in the newspaper and didn’t hear it from BOPARC.

Deputy Mayor and BOPARC President Danielle Trumble said the BOPARC board was informed of the decision to close the facility for the renovations last Wednesday and never voted on the matter. Trumble said she insisted that a meeting be convened with representatives from the various user groups the following day.

“I can’t control the spread of information from there, but the representatives of each user group was invited to a meeting and most of them came and we had a conversation. I thought we had a productive conversation. It’s not a conversation that anyone wanted to have,” Trumble said. 

Morgantown Hockey Association President Frank Oliverio said the organization draws youth from 12 counties across three states to use the rink. A lost season in Morgantown means families will be forced to go elsewhere.

“I want you to understand that this is very important, not just because we don’t want to be without hockey. This is a lifestyle for a lot of families and you’re going to drastically impact that lifestyle and turn it on its head,” Oliverio said, adding, “At the end of the day this is a sport that is specific in its nature, and you need time on ice. This will drastically hurt it.”

 In other news, City Manager Kim Haws said the city received word Tuesday that it will receive $1 million for the city’s airport and $6 million to replace the South High Street Fire Station through the offices of U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

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