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PLANO Plano may be a hotbed of hockey. But since August, the city has been without a rink.

One facility shut down for safety concerns. Another got rid of its ice.

The loss of rinks forced hockey teams and figure skaters to go elsewhere to practice and compete. But come spring, one of those popular skating centers will re-open.

The problems began last summer, when the ice at Plano's Dr Pepper StarCenter started sinking.

It became unsafe for the players to skate on it, said Eric Silverman, Director of Hockey for Dallas Penguins Junior Hockey Association. When the Stars recognized that the rink was unsafe, they decided to shut down the building, so nobody would get hurt.

The closing created headaches for the Penguins, the oldest youth hockey organization in Texas. Two-hundred kids who play on 11 teams had to find another place to practice and play.

We're at six different facilities right now, Silverman said. And not at all the times we're used to having. But our families and our players and our coaches have done the best they can to adjust.

Several months after the Stars shut down the Plano StarCenter, it went into foreclosure. News 8 learned a group of investors, including Stars President Jim Lites bought the building. The new owners plan on making repairs and reopening it in July, under the Dr Pepper StarCenter name.

That's encouraging news to the Penguins, who have their own private locker room, weight training center and puck shooting area at the Plano center.

So we haven't had the comforts of home, Silverman said. It's like we've been a road team all year.

When the Plano Sports Authority decided to transform their one ice rink into an indoor soccer field, it left Plano with no ice rinks.

There are a lot of families based out of Plano that play hockey, Silverman said. So yes, it's meant a little more driving and a little more inconvenience.

And it's not just the Penguins who are happy. When the StarCenter reopens, figure skaters, high school and adult players will all come back to the place they call home ice.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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