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Rinks need supervision Incident at Amherst Pepsi Center mandates review of facility operation

Amherst needs to look long and hard at the way Pepsi Center usage is being supervised. A court will review the recent incident involving a 38-year-old Lockport father and a 10-year-old Grand Island boy witnesses say shot pucks at the man and his son during an open hockey skills session at the rink, but it's the town that needs to question rink operations.

It is heartening to know that the Amherst Recreation Commission already has met, and intends to question the center's management about whether any action was warranted in response to the incident. The obvious answer to that last question is yes. Any time an adult is accused of grabbing a 10-year-old, for whatever reason, an investigation is warranted. Any time a rink user is placed at risk, by intentionally aimed pucks or otherwise, responses should be reviewed.

For years the Pepsi Center was an abysmal example of management gone wrong. Previously the center was run by a private entity while also staffed by government employees. To call that a drain on town finances is an understatement. Employing so many people for so little reason was ridiculous. Now that the town has taken full control and cut down on a bloated work force at the center, though, the people still on staff need to work well, the center needs to be capably managed and workers who are not where they are supposed to be -- a possibility in this case, according to early accounts -- need to be held accountable.

The Amherst Recreation Commission chairman has said the town is not able to disprove the father's assertion that he was unable to find any employee to assist him. But the commissioner went on to say the incident occurred yards from the center's guest relations booth and that the facility was heavily staffed, including at least one supervisor, because it was hosting practice sessions for the Sabres and Islanders.

The presence of NHL playoff teams on some of the ice cannot excuse a lack of oversight on other parts of the ice, the parts used for public recreation. Exactly how is it that a number of employees were nearby, possibly near enough to have witnessed the incident, and no one stepped in? An investigation into staff operations at the Pepsi Center is indeed warranted.

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