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S. Siders raving over rink's late parties

Sleep-starved residents giving Ricciardi an earful

Tuesday, January 09, 2001

By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

South Side resident Carol Schmidt says the throbbing noise from recent "rave" music concerts held at the Neville Ice Arena is driving her crazy.

Carol Schmidt of the South Side said she is upset about noise from raves at Neville Ice Arena near her home. (Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette)

"There has to be some sort of law against this. No one should have to put up with that kind of noise," said Schmidt, who lives on St. Leo Street, on the slopes above the ice facility at the end of South 21st Street.

"It's boom-boom-boom the whole blessed night. Nobody can sleep," agreed her neighbor, Rita Wurst of South 18th Street.

They're demanding action from city officials. Councilman Gene Ricciardi has been getting phone calls from angry constituents at 4 and 5 a.m. in the morning, while raves are still going on.

On the night of a rave, the noise "starts about 10 p.m. and goes till 10 the next morning," Schmidt claimed. "There's no place in my house I can go to escape the noise."

She's complained to Zone 4 police about the noise but said it does no good. Gwen Elliott, Zone 4 commander, said she has sent officers with noise meters to check the sound coming from the ice arena but it hasn't exceeded the allowable 65 decibels.

"We have tried our best to solve the problem," she said. Schmidt said that even though the raves are inside the ice rink, the boom-boom noises travel up the hill to her house.

Raves started a few years ago as clandestine gatherings of youths listening to unknown bands blaring industrial music. Locations were usually kept secret, spread only by word of mouth or the Internet. Police say that's often because of underage drinking and illegal drug use that go on there.

But raves have taken a mainstream turn lately, often held in sports complexes. On New Year's Eve, state police in Washington, Pa., staked out a rave they'd been told about in advance at Southpointe's Iceoplex hockey arena and arrested 13 people, including six juveniles, on drug-related charges.

Ricciardi, who lives on the South Side Flats, said he's asked the city Law Department to investigate whether the rave concerts at the Neville rink violate its 20-year lease with the city. If they do, Ricciardi will try to break the lease.

"Young people need a place for recreation, music and dancing," Ricciardi said. "As long as they are quiet, that could be a good location because it's secluded and has parking. But if any illicit or illegal activities are occurring, such as underage drinking or drug use, obviously that's not good."

City Parks Director Duane Ashley said he's gotten rave-related complaints from youth hockey leagues who practice and play games at the arena.

"One accusation alleged finding drug paraphernalia" after one of the raves held there in November and December, he said.

But Henry Herceg, a Neville rink employee who has worked at two raves, denied there was drug paraphernalia found there.

"I think they're seeing things," he said of people who claimed otherwise.

Ashley said he "has to be careful" about what he says because the matter may end up in court, if the city tries to break its current lease with rink operator Paul Shuttleworth.

Ashley said he really doesn't want to shut the rink down. "We want to clean it up," he said.

Shuttleworth has declined to return phone calls for two days last week and again yesterday.

Besides the rave complaints, the ice rink has also run into problems with local hockey groups. For 10 days in December, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League prohibited its teams (grades 6 to 12) from playing there because of safety problems at the rink, including insufficient padding on the dasher boards and problems with fire exits, said Commissioner Ed Sam.

"We did cancel some games and gave the rink operators 10 days to correct these issues," he said.

But improvements were made and games are on again, although some teams are still refusing to play there, Sam said. He added that no games or practices had to be canceled because of the raves held at the facility.

Ron Steedle, coach of the Shaler Area High School hockey team, said that on a recent Sunday there were problems with ruts in the ice but overall the rink has been in good shape.

Sam said the temperature is too cold in the stands (where spectators sit) and in the players' locker rooms. He said he continues to check conditions at the Neville rink weekly.

Ashley said the city's lease with Shuttleworth permits "recreational activities" at the ice rink. But Ashley thinks "it's a stretch" to allow raves to be held under that category. He said the recreation should be limited to ice skating and hockey for youths.

Ashley said he is checking with city building inspection and legal officials and "soon will make a decision whether raves are permitted there."

The Neville ice rink used to be an outdoor facility, but 10 years ago the city enclosed it. The city still owns it, but leases it to Shuttleworth. Ricciardi said that in the late 1980s, when the city was still running it, the facility was losing about $350,000 a year.

Ricciardi said the ice rink "has been an asset to the community" because it provides a place for ice skating and hockey, but he is concerned about renting it out for rock music concerts.

Ricciardi said Shuttleworth started holding raves there this fall because "there is less money in renting for ice skating or hockey because there are more rinks now," including a new one, Ice Castle, which just opened in Castle Shannon.

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