The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 10, 2013

Youth group’s goal: Hockey rink for Portage

Justin Dennis

PORTAGE — A Portage-area youth hockey league is taking steps to battle boredom for young hockey fans skating the streets each day with sticks and balls.

The hockey division of the Portage Area Youth Association, headed by its president, Don Wyar, on Saturday unveiled a fundraising campaign to build a hockey rink in the borough’s Crichton McCormick Park.

The league got an informal start about three years ago, according to Wyar, and he said he’s been pushing for a dedicated facility to house league games for at least two years.

“Our main goal is to basically take these kids off the street,” he said. “Not only to give them something to do but to show what teamwork is about and playing with others.”

Wyar first had to organize the league of 30 to 40 youngsters before the Portage Area Joint Recreation Commission would back the effort. He did that around a month ago, and returned to the commission.

Now the league is hunting grant money and accepting pledges to make the rink a reality.

“The facility’s definitely needed in this community and definitely wanted,” he said. “Right now we’re playing inside tennis courts.”

The group’s fundraiser “thermometer” caps out at $120,000.

John Burley, president of hockey rink contractor Everything Ice, has been helping the league with the preliminary budgeting work. He said the project could receive some state funding, and CJL Engineering of Johns­town is being tapped for construction planning and utility work.

“We’re gonna be smart with the money that we’re spending,” Burley said. “But, by the same token, providing a good quality, safe complex facility for the residents of Portage.”

Wyar said the total seems a daunting goal, but he’s ready to tackle it for the love of the game.

“I’ve played hockey all my life, since I was 4 years old,” Wyar said. “It’s taught me to be a team player; it helped me through school. It’s just a fun game. And this is a hockey town.

“We’ve been talking to the kids and they’re pretty hyped up,” he said. “We try to tell them it’s a long shot and it’s going to take some time to get the funds up for the arena.”

How to help

Those interested in contributing to development of a hockey rink at Crichton McCormick Park can send pledges in the form of cash, check or money order to: First Summit Bank, Attn: PAYA/Hock­ey Division, 924 Main St., Portage, Pa. 15946.


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