Thursday, May 4, 2017

Big Plans for Local Rink Chaparral Ice Under New Ownership

(Credit: Chaparral Ice)
Chaparral Ice has been part of the hockey community in Austin for over twenty years. Originally started by the Collins family, who wanted to see a place for their children and others in the community to figure skate, new ownership with a hockey background has reinvigorated the local rink and set out a plan to further grow hockey in Austin.

The man behind that plan is Ryan Raya. In January, he completed the purchase of the rink from the Collins family and put into motion numerous plans to grow the game and all of the programs at "Chap".

"I never expected to be here for hockey. When I came for a job interview [for another local company], I also interviewed to be a coach. Over the three years, I learned the story of Chaparral."

That story was a tough one and familiar to anyone in the local community. As recently as 2010, Chaparral Ice was a multi-rink facility, operating three sheets across two locations in Austin. Poor management, fines from the city and the economic climate forced the closure and sale of the facility on I-35, closing two of the three public rinks in Austin.

"The hockey community shrunk, having three programs on one sheet of ice, operating from 5am to midinight. After the other rink closed, [ownership] walked away and left Angie with the instructions, 'Just don’t close the doors. Don’t loose too much money.'

"So they operated at a baseline level, but the hockey community wanted to grow. I’ve had years outside knowing how organizations run, so I approached the family with an unsolicited offer to buy the rink."

Raya grew up in the Northeast and has been coaching since high school. He grew up "being on the ice seven days a week." After a move to Virginia, Raya got involved in running multiple programs at rinks in the area. When he moved to Texas, he didn't expect to be involved in hockey but quickly got wrapped up in coaching at Chaparral.

Raya's improvements are both small and massive. Simple things like upgrading the rink's internet, point of sale and website will make big differences for regular visitors. Upgrades to add figure skating locker rooms, a warm room for spectators, real locker rooms with dedicated showers, public restroom improvements and stands with infrared heaters will begin this summer and cost $600,000. Much to the delight of adult league players, the rink will also add a bar and concession stand.

"It’s not about sustaining any more. It’s about growing."


Chaparral is partnering with the UT men's hockey team to create a dedicated locker room for their team, including individual locker stall similar to what you would see in an AHL or NHL locker room. Projectors and white boards will be added to coaching rooms to increase educational opportunities for players. Their continuing partnership with the Texas Stars has them in talks to create an off-site pro shop for the Stars at the rink.

Even with all this work for the traditional ice sports of figure skating and youth and adult hockey, Raya still views public skate as a key part of what Chaparral does.

"Your gateway to new participants is public skate. The gateway in a non-traditional market is that 'Hey, let’s do something different' thought."

Rumours flew, of course, after the purchase of the ever-present possibility of more ice coming in Austin.

"I’m going to leave the rumours as rumors for now. There’s a serious likelihood something gets started in the next calendar year."

Raya noted that success for hockey in non-traditional markets comes when facilities partner to create multi-sport complexes.

"We’re working on it. Part of the reason I made the offer was because I have an economics background and I spent a year making models. Running just an ice rink isn’t sustainable. What we need is to look at places that do multisport facilities and see that’s how hockey survives."

Austin's geography makes that tough. Raya cites a report that was conducted showing the vast majority of hockey players in the area live in Cedar Park and Leander, making a facility there a viable option. He counters his own argument with the fact that there is another strong concentration, about one-sixth of the players, in south Austin as well.

Regardless of when or how a new ice surface comes about, Raya's focus is community, quality and competition in everything that he does with the new rink. 

"We want to keep everyone playing together, do it well and be the center of it all."

30 comments:

  1. Congratulations Austin hockey community. Ryan Raya is just who you've needed to keep growing the game in Austin.
    Shelley Gallo

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  2. I saw a lot written about hockey, what about the figure skaters? Feels like they are being shoved off the ice.

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    1. I focused on hockey in this post because that's the focus of this site. That's not to say figure skating improvements aren't happening. I just focused on those questions.

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    2. Thank you Brooklyn's Mom, those were my thoughts too.

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  3. It would be great to see some cross rink partnership with The Pond as well. Lets make Austin hockey great and open up crops league playing.

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    1. Ryan told me, "Competition is good. We just have a slightly different view on the products that are offered. We’ve been working with them to grow the base in a way that helps everyone."

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  4. If anyone can do this it would be Mr. Ryan Raya. You can bank on it. You can bank on his integrity!

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  5. I wish we could get that type of hockey commitment down here in San Antonio!

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    1. Raya was extremely complimentary of the relationship the Rampage have with their junior teams in San Antonio. So you've got that positive, for sure!

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  6. Wow That sounds fabulous...ca't wait to skate!

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  7. I hope the girl/women hockey players get treated fairly with locker rooms and showers

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  8. Maybe you missed the part about figure skating locker rooms and heated seats.

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  9. I believe there is work underway to combine the youth programs at The Pond and Chaparral for next season. Only makes sense. Hard to ice competitive teams when you're splitting the talent across two different programs; especially at the older age levels.

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    1. I'll believe that when I see it. Chap has worked hard over the past few years to have one hockey community only to see it destroyed and manipulated by the pond at the expense of the kids. Families have moved and kids have dropped out of hockey because of the irresponsible selfishness of the pond. The pond, specifically Jamie Matthews, is dead set on controlling the youth hockey world of Austin and run it his way. The guy is a silver spooned snake in the grass and has NO idea how to run a youth program. Any compromise to join forces is either a manipulative move, a result of them being nervous that the new ownership will create more sheets of ice and rightfully take over Austin Youth Hockey, or Chap trying to do what's best for the hockey kids of Austin. The people at Chap are much better equipped and have a good history of running a successful program. Those who have been around long enough remember the AA hockey that came out of Austin and competed with kids all over the country. Anyone who REALLY cares about the success of youth hockey in Austin, should join forces with Chap and stay as far away from the pond as possible.

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    2. Wow you are a really angry person

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    3. Jerry Taylor- I thought you moved?

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    4. It's people like this ill-informed "unknown" person that ruin youth sports for almost everyone. I bet you even yell at refs. Lighten up Francis. Nobody is controlling anything anyway. The DSTHL encourages consolidation of programs when it makes sense. This is not unlike what the Texas Warriors (Dallas Oilers & Allen Americans) and McKinney North Stars (Lightning & Texas Aces) did when they combined programs two years ago. Nothing much is going to change for the Texas Jr. Stars players anyhow so relax. The local/house league will be better and the travel teams will have the best players and coaches in Austin. All youth hockey players in Austin will skate at both facilities. Embrace it Bud.

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    5. Ok CJ. We believe you. Everything will be better. The Pond changes their "philosophy" every year. Remember when you cut TJS kids because they didn't fit the "Ponds philosophy." Remember your player application? Want me to post it here for all to see?

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  10. Don't know what axe you have to grind with The Pond and Mr. Matthews, but we left the Chaparral program precisely because it did not seem that they valued strong character building along with teaching hockey. There were several coaches in the Chap program that I did not want around my kid, let alone coaching him. There were fist-fights within the team the year he was on the Jr. Stars.
    My grandson is a higher-level player, and was black-balled one year at Chaparral because of some opinions I had voiced about one of the coaches. The Pond came in and offered an alternative to the good ol' boy system that has been in place at Chaparral for many years.
    I'm glad to see the programs combining, as it makes no sense in this small hockey community to run two separate programs. Talking about what 'used to be' in Austin hockey has no relevance to the way it is today. Chaparral 'used' to have 3 sheets of ice. Now they have one. I'm looking forward to all the improvements mentioned for Chaparral, but am having trouble visualizing where they're going to put all of this, unless they lease more space at Northcross. They've already moved a bunch of lockers and benches into the hallway. A warm viewing area would be a welcome addition.
    I don't know where the attitude of "... rightfully take over Austin Youth Hockey" comes from. 'Rightfully' take over? Who bestowed that 'right'? Your dreams of the old days of 'the AA hockey that came out of Austin' aren't going to happen without combining programs. There aren't enough kids, especially at the older levels.

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  12. So now we have a combined youth program with Mallard, TJS, and San Antonio kids? What a mess. What happened to the Pond's philosophy of "keeping it local"? Why the change? Infrastruture improvements do nothing for the kids. No wonder older kids quit for other sports in Texas. Hockey is a mess and creating yet another hockey association (I believe this is the 4th or 5th one in the last 5 years between the Pond and Chap) is nothing more than re-branding with all the same people involved.

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    1. Hoping you move away too

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    2. The San Antonio thing isn't official. Yes this is another new association but in case you haven't noticed Austin has been growing and evolving pretty quickly. There isn't going to be some 50 year old association that hasn't changed. The Pond is keeping it local with combined youth programs because the local/house league will be better than ever and the travel teams will have the actual best players and coaches in Austin. All youth hockey players in Austin will skate at both facilities. Embrace it Bud. The mess just got cleaned up.

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    3. Anonymous is right. The mess just started. Wait till the TJS kids are displaced by Pond kids on the top teams (if tryouts are run fairly). Yea right! It will be fun to watch. All that TJS loyalty is now at risk for those parents. Chap should hire a PR person to handle all the parent complaints, its coming, just wait. BUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      The only reason why there is a change of heart at the Pond is because Matthews knows he cant put Chap out of business now and wants his kid to play in the DSTHL - he ran out of options when he couldnt bankrupt Chap. It had nothing to do with the hockey community as he could have partnered long ago.

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    4. So your complaint with combining the programs is that "the TJS kids are displaced by Pond kids on the top teams (if tryouts are run fairly)."? Don't you want tryouts to be run fairly? And don't you want the best players to be selected from tryouts? It's my understanding that the Dallas Stars and the DSTHL had something to do with brokering this agreement between the two rinks. And Jamie's kid is going to school in Colorado next year, so he won't be playing in the DSTHL. As a Mallard, we couldn't even get the Jr Stars to come scrimmage with us; we had to get San Antonio and Houston to come up and play. So I'm not so certain that the Jr Stars were wanting to merge programs, either.

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    5. Hey Anonymous POT STIRRER:
      The Pond guys asked Chap to partner last year and the year before that and it was turned down by previous management. Included in that was shared adult leagues and free pond times- also subsidized ice fees. Also, I have heard Mr. Matthews say the worst thing that could happen is for chap to go out of business in about 4 meetings. So do your research. And if you want the "most competitive" teams in town- then you better hope you have 100 kids trying out. So everyone is placed accordingly. And no one wants to deal or be around people like you. Always complaining never a part of the solution. There are too many of you around.

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  13. I became President of the Austin Blades Sled Hockey Team Organization for physically challenged individuals a year ago. Slowly but surely I have been trying to bring more awareness of Sled Hockey, build relationships with other organizations and grow our team along with trying to create a Jr. team. My son who is 12 years old is currently the only kid on the team. I would love to be more involved in the hockey community to bring more awareness of Sled Hockey in Austin. Jamie Matthews has been a huge supporter of our organization and without his donations we would not be able to purchase equipment, pay for ice time nor travel for tournaments. The Austin Blades is a competitive team and also travels for tournaments and camps. I feel like if we all work together the Pond and Chaparral could monetary wise benefit from this by hosting camps and tournaments for sled hockey. USA Hockey hosts a National tournament once a year in different upstate city and I feel like if the Pond and Chaparral requested to host one in the next couple of years they would bring in a lot of money. We are constantly fundraising for our guys to travel up north, which is very expensive. Let's bring the northerner's to Texas!

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  14. I'll believe that when I see it. Chap has worked hard over the past few years to have one hockey community only to see it destroyed and manipulated by the pond at the expense of the kids...!

    gclub
    www.golden-slot.com

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