West Philly ice-rink ribbon cutting a sign of things to come to West Oak Lane

In 2008, Simons Ice Rink sat on the city’s chopping block as it scrambled to plug a sizable budget hole.

Now, thanks to a $13 million partnership with Ed Snider’s Youth Hockey Foundation, the West Oak Lane site has received a top-tier makeover and will stay open for the foreseeable future.

“It’s a win-win for the kids. It’s a win-win for the community,” said Isabella Fitzgerald with the Northwest Community Coalition for Youth, an organization that focuses on keeping kids in the area safe and off the streets.

The rink, part of the Simons Community Recreation Center on Woolston Avenue, is now completely enclosed, allowing for ice-skating and hockey programs to run year-round. The brand new facility will also feature classrooms, learning labs and expanded public space for after-school and educational activities.

On Tuesday, city officials and residents joined the Philadelphia Flyers founder in West Philadelphia for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Laura Sims Skate House, which was similarly upgraded along with the Scanlon Ice Rink in Northeast Philadelphia.

“This is a major, major improvement to our system,” said Michael DiBerardinis, who heads the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which will continue to maintain the rinks.

Afterwards, City Councilwoman Marian Tasco, whose Ninth District includes Simons Ice Rink, said that facility will help foster positive activity in the community.

“It’s work, it’s learning and playing,” said Tasco. “It really helps us curb the violence.”

The three ice-rink renovations were covered by a $6.5 million donation from Snider and a $6.5 million grant from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. Those funds will also be used for future updates at the city’s remaining rinks in Kensington and South Philadelphia.

A site-specific celebration at Simons is scheduled for Dec. 9.

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