There was no ribbon cutting to help unveil upgrades at the Fishtown Recreation Center Tuesday morning.
Instead, Flyers mascot Gritty lined up with a group of children for a mass slapshot as orange hockey balls emblazoned with the team logo were fired on an open net. With that, the multi-use facility offering hockey, pickleball, and other activities was officially open.
The rink itself cost $2.5 million and the center also added a new pool, recreation courts, and other amenities at the center on Montgomery Avenue, just off Girard. The upgrades were funded through the Rebuild Philadelphia initiative, which uses funds from the soda tax money to pay for improvements to city recreation centers and libraries.
City Council President Darrell Clarke said when they first looked at the facility, he was ready to have it torn down, while those living nearby called for it to be rebuilt.
“The first time that we came over to the center, you needed an umbrella because it was raining,” Clarke said. “We walked through here and the rain was coming through the roof and we said, ‘What in the world do you want us to do with this? Tear it down.’ They said, ‘Oh, no, we need you to fix it up.’”
Kira Strong of Rebuild said it was a neighborhood urging that got the facility fixed.
“It’s the residents of Fishtown and you all who gave us the idea, the push, the energy, and the input to make this fabulous project and the pool and the playground happen,” Strong said.
Interim Parks and Recreation Commissioner Orlando Rendon said it’s a great day for the neighborhood. “There is a lot of hope and excitement in the air today,” he said. “This high quality rink will transform this site for generations of hockey, pickleball, and futsal athletes of all ages.”
In addition to taking part in the grand opening slapshots, the Philadelphia Flyers organization committed to help build a hockey program at the center.
Dan Hilferty, the chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor and governor of the Philadelphia Flyers, said the team will help expand hockey activities at the new facility.
“Working closely with a program that we call Learn to Play is part of our efforts to get into the community on a regular basis,” he said. “The Flyers will provide head-to-toe equipment and coaching led by NHL alums to kids, and it will be offered here in Fishtown at this rec center.”
Several dozen children have already signed up to take part in the hockey program and other activities.