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Roller Hockey Players Hope to Get New Rink in Line With Planners : Recreation: Commission is scheduled to consider a facility at Ventura Harbor that is backed by members of a local league and private investors.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Roller hockey buffs have been fighting more than two years to score an outdoor skating rink for the rapidly growing number of in-line hockey players countywide.

Tonight, the Ventura Planning Commission plans to consider their request to build a 180-by-80-foot rink on a grassy area at Ventura Harbor.

The skating complex would be the first outdoor facility designed specifically for roller hockey in Ventura County. An indoor hockey rink called the Roller Dome opened in Thousand Oaks in May.

The Ventura rink, which would cost $180,000, would be built on 34,290 square feet of Ventura Port District land just north of Ventura Harbor Village.

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The members of a local hockey league are joining private investors to foot the bill. The ice-less complex would be modeled after a National Hockey League rink, complete with plexiglass siding, a scoreboard and players’ dugouts.

The hockey center would also include grandstands, a locker room and staging area.

“We have been looking for a location for about 2 1/2 years,” said Steve Soroka, an Ojai resident and founder of Street Sharks, a league of 500 roller hockey enthusiasts from around Ventura County.

Soroka, who runs an in-line skate shop with his wife, Nicole, has been negotiating a lease with Harbor Village management, which says the rink would be a boon for business.

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“This is a win-win scenario for us,” Harbor Village manager Oscar Pena said. “It appears to be an up-and-coming sport activity. We feel it would contribute a great deal to the community.”

Pena said the grassy lot being considered for the rink is already zoned for commercial use. He said he sees no reason why the project would not be approved.

“It has already gone before the Design Review Committee and they did not have any problems with it,” Pena said.

If approved, the rink would be constructed by April. It would be used mostly by the 40 teams that participate in the league, but would also be open to the public for a few hours each weekend.

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The harbor site is the fourth location the Street Sharks league has tried to secure for a rink in about two years, Soroka said.

Some players currently practice at a skating rink in Oxnard, but the league has grown by hundreds of players since its formation in 1992 and now needs a more suitable location, he said.

The Street Sharks league is already one of the larger in-line hockey leagues in Southern California, and Soroka said he hopes a rink will help establish a local amateur team to compete statewide. Soroka also hopes to hold roller hockey tournaments at the rink.

“We are going to grow when we get this rink up,” he said. “We are just going to blast onto the roller hockey scene.”

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A dry version of the ice sport, in-line hockey has become popular in the international sports world since its creation on the parking lots of Southern California only a few years ago.

“It has evolved so quickly it is amazing,” said Doug Balog, co-founder of the Newport Beach-based National In-Line Hockey Assn., the organizing body for the United States and Canada.

The association lists 45,000 members nationwide, plus another 7,000 members in Canada. In Southern California, there are roughly 10,000 players and more than 100 leagues.

As the sport has grown, many hockey players have moved from the parking lots and converted basketball courts they once used as makeshift rinks and pulled down the funding to build professional-style rinks.

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In Southern California alone, Balog said, “I would expect there are another 30 facilities in the design or application stage at this time.”


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