NEW PORT RICHEY — It's no longer just a hockey rink.
All Sports Arena, which celebrated its grand re-opening over the weekend under a new name and new owner, plans to host indoor soccer leagues, wrestling shows and even roller derby competitions as well as its bread-and-butter inline hockey games. Matt Garry, who purchased the former Sportszone 2 arena earlier this year, said diversifying the venue is key to keeping it alive.
"We're doing more than just hockey now," said Garry, 36, a temp agency operator and hockey player himself. "We've got a soccer league forming as well as lacrosse. We host events like Florida Championship Wrestling, too, so we want to open this place up and anything people can use the rink for, we want them to use it. I took this challenge on and it hasn't been easy, but I plan on keeping this place open forever."
To do so, Garry has to make at least $15,000 a month to pay the bills.
"We've had so much support from the people that use this arena and we're not to where we can pay the bills just yet, but I can see where we're going and it's good," Garry said.
On Oct. 1 the arena will host its first roller derby contest, with the Pinellas County Roller Girls facing a team from Lakeland.
"Our hope is that we can attract some girls to the sport and maybe a Pasco County team will form," said Rose Frizzle, president of the Pinellas Roller Girls. "We'd like to have a situation where Pasco and Pinellas play each other. I believe anywhere there is a rink there should be roller derby because the sport gives girls a chance to bond. It's a woman-empowering sport and the sisterhood that comes along with it is unbelievable."
Garry's success could hinge on finding activities for the arena during the day. But finding participants is a challenge when kids are in school and many adults are at work.
"On top of that this location isn't the greatest," said Garry, of the arena's location in an industrial park off Orchid Lake Road near Congress Street. "If I was on U.S. 19 we'd been doing a lot better, but these are the cards I was dealt when I bought the place. We have to figure out ways to make it work with what we've got."
His action in stepping in and buying the arena has already endeared Garry as a hero to local users of the arena.
"He (Garry) didn't just save an arena, he saved a community by buying this place," said Becky LaRoche, who has been using the facility for 10 years. "We're very pleased with everything he's doing, he's trying so hard. We were devastated when this place was on the brink of closing. We've developed so many close relationships other families that play here. We've seen their kids grow up here and it was hard for us to think of this place going under, but Matt stepped in and saved it."