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Roller Hockey Done at North Ave. Beach, Land Leased to Marketing Firm

By Paul Biasco | May 1, 2015 5:36am | Updated on May 1, 2015 7:12am
 The former roller hockey rink at North Avenue Beach has been leased to a marketing company.
Roller Hockey
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LINCOLN PARK — Roller hockey players angry about losing their prime spot at North Avenue Beach may have an alternative near Belmont Harbor, preserving a unique lakefront activity, Chicago Park District officials said.

Still, players are mad about Park District decisions that they said killed last season and threaten this summer's play.

The Park District said leasing the space at North Avenue to a marketing company will result in some $150,000 for the city park system.

Paul Biasco says a petition to bring back roller hockey has gained traction:

For years the only place for Chicago roller hockey aficionados to play in organized leagues was on a patch of asphalt next to the running path at North Avenue beach.

League organizers, who had been taking calls from prospective players for months and confirmed 32 teams for this year, said they had been unaware that the Park District agreed to lease the space to a marketing company seven months ago.

Before the lease agreement was made, the Park District told roller league officials it would not renew the contract for the space, forcing the North Avenue Beach Sports League to cancel its season last summer. As the Park District looked for a private company to lease the space, it sat vacant last summer, angering roller hockey players.

"They left it empty. That is what was really devastating," said Eric Ziegler, former general manager of the hockey leagues at the rink.

The league, which usually kicks off around Memorial Day weekend, had five leagues and about 50 teams in its final year.

A petition started this year to get the North Avenue space back was signed by 900 people, and roller bladers said the Park District left hope they could return.

But Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said the lease signed last October is a five-year deal with the marketing firm Street Smart, which will pay the district $150,000 annually plus a percentage of sales. Street Smart will bring unspecified "special promotions" to the site, according to the Park District.

What is left is a slab of concrete, some weathered wooden bleachers and lights, which once allowed leagues to play into the night. A former league owner put those lights up 17 years ago, according to Ziegler.

"It was really absurd that they gave it to a big business like that," Ziegler said of the space. "That was really upsetting."

The former inline hockey rink has been vacant for more than a year. [DNAinfo/Paul Biasco]

Maxey-Faulkner said the Park District has offered the league a spot near Belmont Harbor and is open to suggestions about other sites.

Ziegler said the Park District has been slow in finding another spot, and the delay will result in another lost season.

"It's crazy that there's such a gap," he said.

As for the Belmont Harbor location, Ziegler said, "I don't think it will be able to get done in time" for this season.

"We would have to get permits to lay down the concrete and get the lights in," he said. "By the time it's all done, it will be June or something, and we'll be screwed."

Street Smart, the marketing company taking over the North Avenue Beach spot, did not return requests for comment.

According to the company's website, it is a full-service marketing team, artist management company and record label.

The former rink was the home of about 50 teams. [Facebook/NAB Sports]

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