With the NHL lockout over, Pittsburgh Penguins hockey is back. And if you can’t catch the team’s star players on the ice, you may soon see them in Cranberry Township.
At a Planning Advisory Commission meeting in Cranberry earlier this week, UPMC and Pittsburgh Penguins took a tentative step closer to partnering on the construction of a cutting-edge sports complex in the community.
Representatives on Tuesday presented revised concept drawings for the Village of Cranberry Woods, a five-phase plan that includes two hotels, apartments, townhouses and retail space. Taking up a large chunk of the site along Route 228 will be the UPMC/Pens performance center and practice rink.
The complex aims to be similar to the UPMC sports performance complex on Pittsburgh's South Side, which is used by the Pittsburgh Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh. The proposed 150,000-square-foot sports facility would offer hockey-related training and injury treatment and prevention.
When ice isn't available at the Consol Energy Center, the Penguins would use the new rink. Development camps for Penguins hockey prospects, skating classes, public skating sessions and other programs also would take place at the complex, Pens spokesman Tom McMillan has said.
Second Time Around
This is the second time the developers have gone before the planning board for the Village of Cranberry Woods.
Cranberry officials approved the original master plan for the site in March 2010. At the time, the plans called for a combination of retail, office, entertainment and residential development on the 55-acre property.
Because the addition of the sports complex would change the plan so drastically, developers must again submit it to Cranberry’s planners for approval.
Township manager Jerry Andree previously has noted it has been a challenge to fit the new plan within the site’s zoning requirements.
One of the biggest deviations from the original plan: The complex no longer includes a movie theater. The change was welcomed by Cranberry planning chairman Jim Colella
“I think the ice complex is much better for the community then the cinema,” he said. “I think this can be a nice thing for this area.”
Loren Wright, principal and managing director for Pieper O’Brien Herr, the architect for the project, said developers went before to the planning commission Tuesday in hopes of getting the board’s thoughts before submitting the tentative plans to the township.
“We’re looking to solicit some level of feedback from everybody to see what you feel about the overall site plan and the general look and character of what we’ve developed today,” Wright told commission members.
So far, it appears planning officials like what they see.
“I like the synergies and I like the aesthetics,” Colella said after viewing 3D renderings of the complex, retail and residential space.
Officials did cite traffic concerns, particularly when events are taking place at the complex. Board member Sharon Beck noted the development is located in the same area as the Westinghouse headquarters and the new North Catholic High School under construction on busy Route 228.
“I can’t even imagine how Route 228 is going to provide for that,” she said.
Ron Henshaw, Cranberry’s director of community development, said the township would evaluate the development’s traffic plan when it is submitted. Jason Kratsas, Cranberry’s director of engineering, also said the township has requested a meeting with the developer’s traffic engineer.
“This is why this development has to come back through the entire planning process, preliminary and conditional use and then final for those phases,” Henshaw said. “We have to re-evaluate everything, from storm water to traffic.”
Roger Altmeyer, director of community project development for UPMC, pointed out most of the traffic during daylight hours would be from employees working at the medical offices. In contrast, events or practices at the rink likely would occur on nights and weekends when the medical practice is empty, he said.
He also gave a description of how the sports complex would be oriented.
Sports Complex Gets Detailed
Altmeyer said the complex would have three components. One portion would be a two-story medical office space similar to UPMC’s space on the South Side. The Penguins training facility would be located in the top half of that same building.
“The balance of the building is the arena area, which has two rinks,” Altmeyer said.
One rink will have about 1,500 seats, he said. There also will be a dedicated area for the Penguins. About 500 spots will be available to accommodate parking for that rink, he said. There also would be a parking lot that can hold up to 50 cars for the Penguins facility only.
If the plans are approved, UPMC would build and own the complex and the Penguins would lease the ice rink and other facilities from UPMC. Developer Don Rodger, of Creative Real Estate Development in Cranberry, currently owns the property.
Although plans for the complex still are tentative, Altmeyer said the development's next move should become clearer within the next three weeks.
“We’re still doing lots of planning,” he said.
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