RoughRiders booming, soon to call Sport Stable home
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The blueprints for the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders’ success over the years have literally morphed into construction blueprints.
Beginning with the 2016-17 season, the RoughRiders AAA youth organization will call the Sport Stable, a new state-of-the-art complex located in Superior, its new home.
The program, now in its sixth season with six teams (12U tournament team, 13U, 14U, two 16U teams and an 18U team) at the Tier I level, currently plays out of the Ice Centre at the Promenade in Westminster and will continue to utilize that first-class facility moving forward.
RoughRiders’ director of hockey operations Derek Robinson feels that as his program is top-notch, so, too, should be the facilities.
“The Sport Stable is going to afford our program the ability to really put together a development model that is first class from on- and off-ice training, strength and conditioning, video and education,” said Robinson. “Having all these tools at our finger tips and the ice needed to do these things, our program should take another step to where we want to be. From a tournament-hosting perspective, having the ability to host tournaments between the Sport Stable and the Ice Centre at the Promenade we will be able to host and bring events to the state of Colorado that we haven’t had the ability to do before.”
Matt Huckins, who coaches the RoughRiders’ 13U AAA team this season, has been with the organization since Day 1, back when it was simply Team Rocky Mountain. He has also been involved with the Sport Stable, even painting the ice on one of the three sheets recently with Jimmy Dexter.
“It’s amazing – Jimmy and I put in the first sheet of ice at Boulder Valley Ice 14 years ago,” said Huckins. “Jimmy, Chris Lockrem or myself have managed BVICE and or directed the Boulder Hockey Club during that time period. All three of us had great support, but to think we are about to start over in a facility like this – it’s a dream with three sheets, three lacrosse fields, a soccer field and a strength training center (Impact Sports) dedicated to the RoughRiders with a locker room for all the Tier I teams.”
According to Luke Taylor, the managing member for the Sport Stable, seeing the rink finally come alive before his eyes has been “awesome.”
“This project started out back in 2009 and we finally broke ground in April of 2014,” said Taylor, also the president of the RoughRider Sports Club. “The interior will be complete in April, with the landscaping and parking lots done by May and Impact Sports should be complete by the end of May.
“Once this is going full steam ahead, the Sport Stable will easily be the premiere facility in all of Colorado. No question about it. I’ve traveled around the country and into Canada visiting sports facilities and I have not run into anything like what we’ll have here. It’s just incredible.”
As to what was on the property prior to breaking ground, Taylor’s response was simple, “Cows.”
“It was just a big field,” said Taylor. “Like I said, this has been in the works since 2009 and it took a lot of contributions and hard work from so many people to get us to this point.”
Taylor said there may even be an outdoor rink constructed in the new Town Center in Superior, a 228-acre plot of land with all the amenities – housing, restaurants, shops, outdoor fields – and a bike trail that runs from Boulder to Denver.
Overall, the Sport Stable is approximately 160,000 square feet and 186,000 with Impact Sports.
The early vision
Huckins was a founding member of Team Rocky Mountain with Dennis Hefter (former Boulder Hockey Club president) in 2010. They put a board of directors and bylaws together and went and hired Robinson to be the director. Two years later, Tony Sdao, the owner of the United States Hockey League’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, became involved and the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders were born.
“Dennis and I were unhappy with the only Tier I options being in south Denver and Colorado Springs,” explained Huckins. “An hour to two hours driving for practices was not reasonable. We wanted to offer families a AAA program in their backyard. I didn’t coach the first two years (still the director in Boulder), but when Derek wanted to add a 14U team, he came to me. I love that age and looked toward to working with Derek and Tony.”
The vision to provide a legitimate Tier I program for the youth of Colorado still holds true to this day.
“The development of Colorado players from 12U to 18U has been the biggest area of growth,” Huckins said. “Our players come to our program and stay until they are ready to move on. The RoughRiders focus on Colorado kids more than anything else. We don’t recruit out-of-state players that will displace Colorado kids. We trust that they will develop and it works. We want to give kids north of Denver a program to grow up in and develop, chase their dreams.
“Our goal was to have the whole program in one facility with a feeder club supporting. It’s been a long haul, but we have the players and coaches and a new three-sheet facility to house our program. Pretty cool to come from where we were to where are today.”
For Robinson, he said it’s an exciting time for the organization and even greater things are on the horizon.
“The reason our program continues to grow and gain momentum is the people involved in this program,” he said. “Most of them have been here from Day 1 and they continue to put the work in day in and day out. Not only do they put the work in, but they work together. There are so many people to mention like our board members, registrar, team managers and volunteers – the list can go on and on. This program also wouldn’t be where it is today without our coaches. Most of these guys have been with us from Day 1 and the players moving on and retention numbers show they are the reason this program continues to grow. We are so proud and lucky to have the players and families we have in this organization and what they bring to the organization as a whole.”
Huckins noted that the coaching staff doesn’t get the credit it deserves, but has shown remarkable knowledge in developing players.
“I really appreciate the work ethic and passion that our coaches, board and staff have,” said Huckins. “You have to be dedicated to work in our program and that’s not just the players. We don’t have 5-6 blue-chip players on each team. Our coaches develop those type of players and that takes time and patience. We have an opportunity to set a new bar on how hockey players are developed and the culture they are enveloped in.
“I think you’ll see a whole lot of green and black all over the Colorado Tier I scene.”
— Matt Mackinder