The Hottest Thing on Ice!
Yes, Sidney Crosby skates here, but the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Butler County is more than just the official practice home of the five-time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
It is, in fact, the first facility in the world to combine hockey with a world-class medical center and performance training center, thanks to a unique collaboration between the Penguins and UPMC. The 185,000-square-foot complex includes 54,000 square feet of clinical space, offering expert care in orthopaedics, concussion management, physical and occupational therapy and on-site MRI and x-ray imaging.
“We had an ambitious vision when we opened in 2015, but I think we’ve already exceeded that vision,” said Rich Hixon, President of the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. “The support of the people in Butler County – from elected officials and tourism bureau to all of the user groups who take part in our programs – has been essential to our growth and development. It’s better than we could have imagined – and we’re still only getting started.”
Located in Cranberry Township near exits for I-79 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the facility has become a hub of regional youth hockey and a destination site for national hockey programs. It has hosted the USHL Fall Classic, the USA Hockey national championships, the National Women’s League All-Star weekend and a nationally-televised NHL preseason game between the Penguins and St. Louis Blues. It also was the site of practice sessions for some of the greatest professional players in the world at the 2017 World Cup of Hockey, including John Gibson, J.T. Miller and Vincent Trocheck who all played their youth hockey right here in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins, with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading the way, hold every training camp here, as well as most regular season practice sessions.
On a local level, the complex is the home rink for the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite youth hockey program, featuring 15 boys teams and seven girls teams. In conjunction with nearby Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School, it also is home to the unique EXCEL Hockey Academy, a program that allows students to combine the best of academic and hockey training as they prepare for college and beyond.
“Butler County leadership has played a huge role in everything we’ve been able to accomplish here,” Hixon said. “Jerry Andree, the township manager, Jack Cohen of the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau and Garry Sippel, a local developer, have been advocates from the start and continue to be great supporters, offering insight and ideas, as we look for additional opportunities to serve the community and the region.”
The Penguins recently partnered with Covestro and Carnegie Mellon University on a “Rethink the Rink” initiative in an attempt to make hockey safer for players of all ages. Covestro is currently evaluating materials for a new dasherboard prototype that would be tested at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
In addition, the Penguins are currently in discussions with UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh about the possibility of creating a “human performance center” within the facility to research biomechanics, physical workloads, injuries and training protocols.
“There are so many opportunities for a complex like this, from public skating and figure skating to various community events, as well as cutting-edge research,” Hixon said. “We think we’ve got a very bright future here.”