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By Steve Breazeale
SJC Sports Rink owner Michael Schwartz has made the most of a bad situation.
The sports rink, located behind Marco Forester Middle School and Kinoshita Elementary, had long been a south Orange County roller hockey establishment. Players would flock by the hundreds every week to take part in organized league games on one of the few well-maintained rinks in the area.
But even after multiple improvements to the playing surface, boards and surrounding area, Schwartz saw the number of hockey players dwindle. The custom playing surface he laid down was perfect for hockey players during the day. But at night, the cool air caused the playing surface to become slick and slippery, which Schwartz says was not a good fit for the fast paced action of roller hockey. The rink became active during the day but at night, Schwartz said it felt like a “ghost town.”
That’s why, in December, Schwartz decided to shut down roller hockey at the rink and dive headfirst into providing the city with an artificial grass-lined surface specifically designed for indoor soccer and box lacrosse.
In the first month the SJC Sports Rink offered full-time indoor soccer, Schwartz’s SJC Arena Soccer League had seven teams. Now the league has 32 teams, spread across men’s, women’s and co-ed divisions.
“There was just not enough business for roller hockey in the city. It was like pulling teeth to get people there,” Schwartz said. “Now you can feel the momentum of the place building. Every night you get fans and it’s getting packed as opposed to all the nights I was there by myself for hockey.”
Local lacrosse programs also use the facility on a regular basis.
The influx of soccer and lacrosse players has Schwartz feeling good about his decision to forego hockey and embrace what he feels the public wants.
“You wouldn’t go back to a program that didn’t work. It’s San Juan Capistrano, there’s tons of soccer interest.”