AT A GLANCE
• WHAT: Powerplay Sports Arena, 1043 S. Acacia, Ripon.
• PROGRAMS: Along with inline hockey, Powerplay is expanding its calendar to include Futsal, Zumba, martial arts and public skate.
• FUTSAL: The inaugural league begins Thursday, Aug. 8.
• ONLINE: www.riponrollerhockey.com
• CONTACT: For more information, contact (209) 599-2479.
RIPON – He arrived with a product line drawing global attention, turning Powerplay Sports Arena into a place of interest in markets in Canada and Asia.
CJ Gamble is co-owner of Verbero Sports, which designs, manufactures and sells cutting-edge inline hockey pucks, chassis and wheels.
About four months ago, he and partner Daniel Raines brought the business to the City of Ripon, joining forces with Daniel Costa to create a new ownership group at Powerplay Sports.
“When I came in, we were looking to expand our product line and where we were going,” Gamble said. “Daniel (Costa) thought I could assist him in growing the programs because of my experience with the last two facilities.”
It has been a blissful union, with immediate benefits for both business interests.
Not only has Powerplay Sports Arena given Verbero a home base, but it has afforded Gamble and Raines a viable test market. Powerplay Sports is the Central Valley’s marquee inline hockey facility, with leagues throughout the week during the summer season.
“The arena is a tool,” Gamble said, “for product development.”
Oh, but it’s much more.
On Thursday night, Powerplay staff put away the skates, hard plastic pucks, pads and sticks and gave way to The Beautiful Game. A variation of it, anyway.
For more than an hour Thursday night, the valley’s foremost inline hockey arena was transformed – very easily, mind you – into a Futsal field. Players raced up and down the rink, chasing a soccer ball and rocketing shots on the tiny nets.
It’s all part of Powerplay’s transformation. The sports arena is looking to emerge from the niche market it has dominated for so long, branching out into other sports and activities.
Thursday’s Futsal scrimmage represented the biggest change to the activities program.
Excited for Futsal
Futsal is a faster variation of the outdoor and indoor game, born in Portugal where it was cast as “hall football.” It’s typically played on a hard surface with five players to a side, including a goalie.
“It’s similar to what you might see at any indoor soccer facility with turf, but quicker,” Gamble said. “A Futsal ball plays faster.”
There are leagues in Lodi, Stockton, Modesto, Turlock and Merced, according California Futsal North, an online news source, but registration information is scant.
To the best of Gamble’s knowledge, Powerplay’s setup and execution for the fast-action soccer spin-off will be unmatched this side of the Altamont Hills.
He’s done his research, too.
Before he joined Powerplay, Gamble managed the hockey at Bladium Sports Club in Alameda. He was also a facilities manager at Dry Ice Hockey Arena in Oakland. At each stop, he helped introduce Futsal to the activities program.
Each time, he says, “it did very well.”
Gamble also spent time at the indoor soccer facilities in Modesto and Manteca, polling players, coaches and management. His bottom-line question for each: Is there an interest?
“We went to these places and spoke to those that manage and play. We asked around. ‘Do you think people would want to play Futsal?’ It’s different than playing on turf,” he said. “Like in the Bay Area, everybody seemed excited about it, especially because Powerplay is a safe, fun and clean facility.”
Powerplay’s first Futsal league will begin Thursday, Aug. 8. Gamble says he’d like to start with at least four teams; as of press time, three teams had registered.
Eventually, Powerplay would like to offer leagues based on age and skill level, similar to the formats used at the indoor soccer facilities in Modesto and Manteca’s Big League Dreams.
The cost to register a team is $499, with a maximum roster of 10 players, or an individual rate of $80.
“There was no Futsal in the Central Valley. We thought it would be well-received. Everyone we spoke to seemed very excited about it,” he said.
“Right now, we’re trying to build up as many teams and players as possible. Once we get it off the ground, that’s when we think it will grow very quickly.”
Committed to growth
There’s an all-in commitment to change amongst the partners. Powerplay has added staff to handle its burgeoning activities program, including a Futsal director, Liz Ureste, a Ripon native.
Hockey is still the 4-year-old operation’s crutch, but it has company on the calendar now.
Powerplay also offers: Zumba, hosted by Tessa Santos on Tuesday mornings; Tai Kwon Do and kickboxing classes, taught by black belt instructor Eddie Gabriel, on Thursdays; as well as public skate on the weekends.
“In the past, the facility was only used for hockey. We thought it would be good to reach into as many different sports as possible,” Gamble said. “Right now, we’re trying a variety and seeing what will stick and what works the best.”
This is just the start, Gamble warns. There are other projects, such as volleyball and youth basketball, still in the spit-ball phase.
The possibilities are endless, he added, in an area devoid of much competition and with a facility in excess of 10,000 square feet.
“It will be a big transformation,” he said. “Eventually, you’ll see even more than we have right now.”