The new facility will be 180,000 square foot, costing an estimated $70 million. Housing both youth and adult hockey, the complex will also be open for public skates. In addition, this will be the new practice facility for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Choosing a name was simple. Penguins’ owner Mario Lemieux has a close relationship with UPMC’s CEO, Jeffrey Romoff. From the Mario Lemieux Foundation’s Austin Playrooms, the Lemieux Sibling Complex at Children’s Hospital, and the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers, it was easy to have Lemieux’s name across the building. There was no need to consider any other option.
In addition to being a training facility, the complex will also be a medical facility. With the increasing number of concussions in sports, especially a sport such as hockey, the facility will include a concussion clinic, imaging, physical therapy, and sports performance training.
With an expected completion date looming—August 2015, there is only one question left unanswered. Who will lead this extraordinary complex?
That questioned was answered at a press conference this past Wednesday.
On Wednesday, March 11, it was announced that former National Hockey League player—and former Pittsburgh Penguin—Gary Roberts would be returning to Pittsburgh to lead the Sports Performance Center at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
An athlete like “Scary Gary” is perfect to recruit for this sports complex. He is the epitome of what the goal for the facility is and so much more. Athletes look-up to Roberts for his dedication to the sport, strong work ethic, and leadership. He is also applauded for his concern for nutrition, and the impact good health has on an individual’s game.
As well as operating the Gary Roberts Performance Center in Toronto, Roberts will spend one week every month managing the off-ice training regimen at the Sports Performance Center, as well as consulting with UPMC’s team of doctors whose plan is to work individually with players of all ages—professional, collegiate, junior, and youth.
When the Penguins were deciding who to hire, selecting Roberts was easy. When Roberts was given the opportunity, accepting it was even easier.
Why did he decide to come back? “Probably the WWGRD bracelets people have,” he answered. For those that don’t get the reference, when Roberts was with the Penguins, bracelets were made with the letters “WWGRD” on them—similar to the “What would Jesus do?” bracelets—after his unbelievable game against Ottawa in Round 1, Game 1, in the 2008 playoffs. “What would Gary Roberts do?” He would become the oldest player to score multiple goals in a playoff game at 41 years, 322 days, throw a huge hit with seconds remaining in the game to eventually get thrown out, and try to fight four Senators as he was walking down the runway. That’s what Gary Roberts would do.
On a serious note, Roberts is overjoyed to be given this opportunity to come back to a city that he loves and a community that loves him in return.
“How I was treated by the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, the fans and the media during my time as a player truly left a humbling mark on me. I fell in love with the fans and the organization. … Just every opportunity I get to come back to Pittsburgh, I’ve taken it and I’m thrilled to be getting this opportunity to join UPMC and the Sports Performance Center.”
What would Gary Roberts do this time around? Become a teacher. And, that’s exactly how it should be.
For more information, please visit: http://penguins.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=757664
By: Jessica Martin
Sophomore: Sports, Arts, and Entertainment Management
Student Advisory Board Member