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Indoor inline becoming in thing

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Being the best in Hawaii wasn’t good enough for Richard Pentecost. He saw his sons excel in inline hockey locally but then saw their all-star teams "get crushed" in mainland tournaments.

"I realized right away that we were at a great disadvantage because we only had outdoor concrete facilities," he said. "I wondered if it was worth it when my sons were getting beat 8-0 at a tournament."

But then came an opportunity for the soccer-loving Pentecost to invest. Both in a business and in the future of inline hockey players in Hawaii.

The New Caledonia native bought 2.1 acres and built the 50,000-square-foot Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas. The state-of-the-art, fully air-conditioned facility has two 17,000-square-foot inline rinks with Ice Court Exxess plastic surfaces; seating for more than 800; a "green" footprint of 1,170 solar panels, a full photovoltaic system and recycled plastic benches; eight locker rooms, a snack bar and a pro shop.

"It’s really nice to be inside," said Kimo Chun, who grew up playing on his neighborhood streets and at the outdoor hockey rink in Mililani. "It’s been a family sport for us. I met my wife (Kiyomi) on my first team.

KAPOLEI INLINE HOCKEY ARENAS

» 1057 Opakapaka Street, Kapolei, Oahu

» 682-5442

» Monday-Thursday: 4-10 p.m.

» Saturday: 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

» Sunday: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

» Closed Fridays

» Deadline for spring season registration is Wednesday.

» KiHawaii.com

"What I like is that it’s real fast-paced and exciting. Hockey is more like a mainland sport, but I’ve been playing for 16 years, ever since my brother and I got sticks for Christmas."

Kimberly Berky said her 7-year-old son Bronson started in soccer, but began inline hockey a year ago.

"He loves this," she said. "It’s nice to be indoors. There’s no game cancellations.

"It’s fun to watch the kids play, and I’ve seen how he’s grown so much in the sport in just a year."

Pentecost makes it easy to do that. The initial cost is $80 to buy two jerseys, one home and one away, and the first two youth divisions (beginners) have no fee.

"It gives them a chance to see if they like it," he said. "Then you move up to the Oahu (Division), which is $125 for 10 games as well as one practice per week.

"It’s a good family environment. There’s a lot of people originally from the mainland who have found us, and some ice hockey players coming from the Ice Palace.

"We’re here to have fun, but the vision of KIHA is to get Hawaii players, young and old, to the next level. That’s my mission."

The youth divisions are named after the state’s islands. Based on skill level, players advance from Niihau (beginner) up to Kauai (beginner, stage two), Oahu, Molokai, Lanai and Maui (mostly older teenagers).

KIHA already has hosted two regional tournaments and will send four teams to the North American Roller Hockey Championships. Qualifying teams are in the 12-under, 21-under, women’s and adult divisions.

Stephanie Albers is surprised about how much she has enjoyed learning to play. The 25-year-old said she didn’t play sports in high school and hadn’t been on skates since she was very young.

"I would recommend it," she said. "You don’t have to have a background in it and there are different levels. I started in Division 5, which is the lowest (adult) level, and we all were falling over each other learning. But it’s fun."

The adult program offers competition in Divisions 1 through 5.

The youth and adult leagues run four seasons of three months each throughout the year, and a new season is just about to start.

Currently, KIHA has 250 players after opening last April. Pentecost said he’d like to be at 1,000 players by December 2013.

"If I get to 1,000 players, I believe Hawaii will become synonymous with competitive inline hockey," he said. "We really want the kids to feel the fame that winning brings as well as have fun. Because there is fun in winning.

"As they say, if you build it, they will come. Some have to drive all the way from Hawaii Kai, but they are coming. It just takes time, like everything else. Football, volleyball and basketball has a 45-year start on us."

 

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