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Roller Hockey for Teens?

"You give a boy a stick, helmet, uniform and wheels, he's in heaven. That's four elements of boy ecstasy," said Doug Stevens, a Potomac resident, father and youth roller hockey coach.

That is, if the boy has a place to use the stick, helmet, uniform and wheels.

At this time, teenagers, boys or girls, are forbidden to play at the Potomac Community Center's roller hockey rink, which is reserved for use by players under 12.

In the past, the Wheaton Ice Rink reserved a rink for roller hockey for both teenagers and youth. Because the rink is currently under renovation, however, it is not offering leagues for 14 - 16 year olds. Players 12 and 13 will play on portable boards at Wheaton.

Stevens has petitioned the Montgomery County Planning Board to "stop age discrimination at the Potomac Community Center Rink," and allow the Potomac Community Center to open its rink to teenagers.

"Think what would happen if in the basketball world, the county said, 'Guess what. No gyms this year,'" said Stevens. "The emotion you can imagine your kid will feel is exactly the same as being told that there is no place to play."

But boy ecstasy is not adult tranquillity.

The Advisory Board to the Potomac Community Center discussed this issue at its last meeting, held Wednesday, Feb. 20. The board will consider the rink at another meeting on March 20 before deciding what action to take.

"We had representatives from the immediate neighborhood who attended the meeting and mentioned their concerns, some concerns that were not known to the Board," said Larry Chloupek, president of the Potomac Community Center Advisory Board.

"We talked about some of their present issues and agree those are issues that need to be resolved before taking the next step," said Chloupek.

Some neighbors of the community center are worried older players will make a lot more noise. Neighbors are upset that a device installed to allow staff to monitor noise levels at the rink has been out of service for some time.

Other concerns raised by some neighbors of the rink include trash, the need for a sign posting rules and hours, soil erosion and fence maintenance.

"Some of these issues can obviously be rectified, and rectified fairly quickly," said Chloupek. Linda Barlock, director of the center, is working with the parks department to address some of the issues right away, Chloupek said.

"As a board, we strongly advised that the rink would be open to middle school kids and still feel that way," Chloupek said, but more conversation and input is needed from all sides before moving forward with any changes.

Meanwhile, a player who gets hooked on roller hockey faces a shut out when he or she gets to be a teenager.

"I feel bad because I know a lot of them who have gotten good at this, and, all of a sudden, we say sorry," said Stevens.