Attendance has tripled in the past nine months at the revamped Burbank Roller Hockey Rink on West Victory Boulevard, a venue that was on the brink of being demolished a year ago.
The facility was saved by Frank Dalaessandro, revamped and reintroduced to the public in January.
Starting with just eight teams for adult leagues, Dalessandro has expanded his program to 20 adult and four youth teams as they prepare to kick off their third season.
Gail Corrington, a Burbank resident for more than 50 years, used to bring her son to the rink and was disappointed to see it fall into disuse.
Corrington’s 6-year-old granddaughter, Madison, was out on the rink for the first time during a free youth pickup game Friday.
“I like it a lot,” Madison said while she was taking a break. “And all the kids get a chance to skate and everyone can try their best.”
Adam Trottier moved here 18 months ago and has been skating at the rink since it opened this year. Both his brothers and his father also use the facility, he said.
“I guess I just like going fast,” said the 8-year-old center before skating away.
Thanks to Dalessandro, Kings Hockey sponsors jerseys for any children who want to skate. All equipment is provided for free, including skates, pads, helmets and sticks.
“A bag of gear costs at least $200 before the kid even knows if he or she likes it,” Dalessandro said. “I want them to come and try it out, and if they like it, they should be able to stay.”
The second season of youth teams begin in October, and enrollment has already doubled. Dalessandro said he would like to see 500 children involved in the program.
Before he took over the rink, Dalessandro met with then-Mayor Gary Bric and Councilman Dave Golonski and asked for a chance to take it over.
“I said give me a year and I’ll make it rock,” Dalessandro said. “Look at it now.”
After putting the project up for bid, Dalessandro took over the rink.
“It was like a stay of execution, and it was the best thing we could have done,” Bric said. “I’m very happy we could give it a second chance.”
Dalessandro’s eventual goal, if he can get city approval, is to convert the facility into an indoor rink and provide locker rooms for the skaters.
Any marketing and increase in enrollment has been through word of mouth. He hopes to spread the word to schools soon and is still accepting players for the upcoming season.
“I want this to be a positive family atmosphere, and I want everyone to be able to play,” he said.