James Barron: Skating community should embrace indoor soccer -- because it's coming

Feb. 6—Change is as inevitable as it is constant.

The hard part is embracing it.

That is where the ice skating and hockey community find itself — hardening their hearts to the idea that indoor soccer is invading their rink in the Genoveva Chavez Community Center. They surround themselves with rumors that Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber is trying to drive ice skating and hockey enthusiasts out the door in favor of a warmer climate and bouncing soccer balls off rink boards instead of pucks.

They are prepared for a battle — one that might not be worth fighting.

At the heart of this soccer vs. hockey battle royale is what amounts to two days out of every month from December through March. Those happen to be the expected game days for the new Santa Fe franchise that will compete in Major Arena Soccer League 2.

Franchise owner David Fresquez said in an interview over the weekend he has not made demands for practice time on the ice during the season — only to use the facility for the six home games on its schedule. The team would practice in a gym or even outside if the weather allows it.

But twice a month is apparently two days too many for the opposing side.

That's not to say the ice skating/hockey community shouldn't worry. The belief the mayor wants to repurpose the rink or do away with the ice completely must be coming from somewhere. Certainly, the city's estimate that it lost about $336,000 annually because of the rink from 2015-19 — which detractors say was closer to $187,000 per year — could be the shot across the bow.

However, a deficit is still a deficit. If the city can generate more revenue with six home games over a three-plus month period, where is the issue with that?

Besides, I remember a North American Hockey League team that spent three seasons in Santa Fe from 2004-07, using up about six months of ice time for players who weren't even community members.

It worked out for everybody. In fact, some people might argue it helped generate local interest in the sport that carried over for the next decade.

Now, indoor soccer probably won't do the same thing, but allowing the rink to be used two nights a month — and eliminating roughly four to 6 hours of usage time per event for the community — isn't going to cripple ice skaters and hockey players.

And to be honest, Santa Fe is more of a soccer town than it is — and maybe ever will be — a place for hockey. Fresquez has visions of getting about 1,000 fans to Genoveva Chavez, but it would still be a victory if he got half of that.

But indoor soccer deserves a shot at making it on its own merits — just like the Santa Fe Roadrunners, the ABA's Santa Fe Style and the Santa Fe Fuego of the Pecos League.

Two of those teams were gone within three years. The Fuego have become a staple of hardball on lazy summer days, with food-truck delicacies in one hand and an adult beverage in the other.

The new indoor soccer team deserves that chance to succeed and fail on its own merits, and the ice sports community needs to understand this: Indoor soccer is coming.

And it's not going to destroy a community in the process.

Unless, of course, it wants to continue to try to smash a fly with a shotgun.

It's a lot of firepower for something that isn't really worth the effort.