West Oak Lane’s Simons Ice Rink reopens after multimillion-dollar renovation

Residents joined elected officials at Simons Ice Rink in West Oak Lane Friday to celebrate the site’s recent renovation.

The rink, part of the Simons Community Recreation Center on Woolston Avenue, is now completely enclosed thanks to a $13 million partnership with Ed Snider’s Youth Hockey Foundation.

The funds also covered upgraded classrooms, learning labs and expanded public space for after-school and educational activities.

It’s a day that wasn’t guaranteed just a few years ago.

“Due to the national economic crisis and the pinch of our budget, we were going to shutter three rinks to save money and balance our budget,” said Michael DiBerardinis, who heads the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

State Rep. Dwight Evans helped steer state dollars to Simons, a place he came regularly while growing up in West Oak Lane.

“It’s a great investment for the community, for the city and for the state,” he said. “This is the kind of stuff that you need if you want people to stay in the city of Philadelphia and not move.”

Linda and Brent Washington of Mt. Airy are pleased Simons is here to stay. The couple sat on the far end of a packed set of bleachers to watch their 9-year-old son skate under a roof for the first time.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for inner-city children to do something that they’re not accustomed to doing,” Linda said.

“This is excellent how they fixed this place up,” Brent added.

The renovations are expected to double enrollment numbers at the rink. Currently, it serves an estimated 3,000 youths.

Two other public rinks, Scanlon Ice Rink in Northeast Philadelphia and the Laura Sims Skate House in West Philadelphia, received similar upgrades.

The city’s remaining three rinks will also be updated thanks to the $6.5 million donation from Snider and $6.5 million from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

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